HEN-TOH (Bertrand Nicholas Oliver Walker)


In his 1988 essay, Indian/White Relations: A View from the Other Side of the Frontier, Alfonso Ortiz asserts that American history is written strictly from the white man’s perspective. While an American culture was being established, the cultures of the Native American were totally distorted. In fact, the European invaders tried to destroy that culture under the guise of trying to `assimilate’ or `Christianize’ the Native American in to the European culture. To have a true history of this land, the records must be written by all participants. In his essay, Ortiz laid out a model that would present people with a more accurate view of American history. Part of that model demanded that the historical values of oral traditions must be respected. As well, Ortiz felt it the duty of Native Americans to take on roles as historians and to accept the challenge to seek out, gather, and present accurate portrayals of history. [1]

Decades before Ortiz’s article, one Native American was already attempting to safeguard cultural features of his society. B. N. O. Walker, or Hen-Toh, was born in Kansas in 1870 and was one of eight children born to Isaiah and Mary Walker. At the age of 4, Walker’s family was removed from Kansas and sent to live in lands allocated to the Wyandot in extreme northeastern Indian Territory, slightly southwest of Seneca, Missouri. Hen-Toh received his education at a local mission school as well as public schools and a private academy in Seneca. His higher education was obtained under a private tutor, a former college professor in Seneca. From 1890 until his death in 1927, Hen-Toh spent the majority of his time working for the Indian Service. He worked the first 10 years as a teacher in federal Indian schools in California, Arizona and Missouri and later worked as a clerk at various Indian agencies. At the time of his death, Hen-Toh was working at the Quapaw Agency in Miami, Oklahoma as Chief Clerk; however, for Hen-Toh, home was always the family homestead near Seneca. [2]

Hen-Toh was raised in an environment in which much of the history, myths, and folklore was handed down by word of mouth. Preserving the past was also part of Hen-Toh’s background. Both Hen-Toh’s mother and father were descended from well-known families of their respective tribes. Hen-Toh’s great-uncle, William Walker, had been a Wyandot chief who later served as the first provisional governor for the Nebraska Territory. He was also known as a speaker, writer and poet. In addition, a close relative of Hen-Toh’s mother was Peter Dooyentate Clarke. In 1870, the year of Hen-Toh’s birth, Clarke published Origin and Traditional History of the Wyandot in which Clarke ‘endeavor[s] to give a sketch as I had it from the lips of such, and from some of the tribes that have since passed away’ of the history of the Wyandot people. [3]

Clarke’s considered his attempt at preserving Wyandot history corresponding to the increasing notion that the Native American was becoming extinct. In his words,

“The different Indian tribes who once inhabited this part of North America
to the Mississippi (with an exception of a remnant here and there), have all faded away like shadows of clouds passing over the earth, and the story of their fate has passed into the great history of the world, reminding us of the irresistible fate of nations.”

Clarke envisioned that the fate of the `red man’ was to `give place to another race of people… and vanish before the march of civilization.’

Clarke’s notion was very much in keeping with the general attitude regarding the Native American at the time. Brian Dippie writes in the preface of his book, The Vanishing American: White Attitudes and U.S. Indian Policy, that the American tradition of the time, one that was “rich in pathos and older than the Republic” was that ‘Indians…are a vanishing race; they have been wasting away since the day the white man arrived, diminishing in vitality and numbers, until in some not too distant future, no red men will be left on the face of the earth.’ [4]

The idea of the disappearing Indian was at its peak during Hen-Toh’s life. The notion was found in stories, songs and plays of the era.

In addition, the social science community became active in collecting artifacts for the disappearing cultures. Several Native American ethnologists were busy trying to capture for posterity their own segment of native culture. Arthur Caswell Parker, Iroquois, assumed many roles while documenting Iroquois history such as ethnologist, archeologist, Indian rights advocate, children’s author, historian and museum curator. Parker’s works, which helped to inform Americans on Indian mores, include The Iroquois Uses of Maize and Other Food Plants (1910), The Amazing Iroquois (1927), The Constitution of the Five Nations (1918), Skunny Wundy: Seneca Indian Tales (1926), The American Indian – What Is He? (1914), and The Indian How Book: Authentic Information on American Indian Crafts, Customs, Food and Clothing, Religion and Recreations (1927). [5]

Parker’s support of Iroquois artisans was of equal relevance. He collected the works of numerous craftspeople while with the New York State Museum. After the formation of the Works Progress Administration, Parker encouraged the WPA to engage and support the work of Iroquois artists. While many Native Americans were arguing for full citizenship and trying to disappear into the white man’s world, the work of Parker and Clarke, along with others such as Francis LaFlesche and James Murie, shows a small group intent on preserving the artistic fundamentals of cultures that were perceived to be failing.

Like these preservationists, Walker felt that much of the traditional culture was lost with each passing generation and felt that to be particularly true of the Wyandot. Although Walker’s works have never been widely known, they are illustrative of the oral traditions of his people. His narratives and poems are written through an Indian persona and represent his attempts to preserve some of the old stories he learned as a child. In 1924, Walker published a collection of poetry entitled Nubbins, a reference to small, underdeveloped ears of corn. The Harlow Publishing Company of Oklahoma City published the original edition. The topics of the poetry are varied and reflect many aspects of Wyandot life: from objects like the calumet and arrowhead to love songs and lullabies. Not only do they point toward the life of the Wyandot, they are written to illustrate the dialect of the people and should be read with that in mind. The initial version also included art work by another Indian, Roger Roy Eubanks (Cherokee).

In addition to the poetry contained in Nubbins, Walker also wrote Tales of the Bark Lodges, a collection of 12 stories full of wit and humor. Both volumes of work are written in a way to not only preserve the stories and the tradition of story telling, but to preserve the dialect as well.

History has unjustly ignored those whom Walker refers to in the poem O-See-O as `the TRUE AMERICANS’ and they the things they really value about their native cultures: their languages, religions, oral traditions and arts. It is essential to recognize that both written and oral traditions hold value and to accept the challenge of exploring, gathering and bringing forth real Native American History. As Alfonso Ortiz argued, to have a true history of this land, it is vital the works of those such as B. N. O. Walker, Hen-Toh, be included to avoid a history that is incomplete.


HEN-TOH (B.N.O. Walker)


To those who claim by heritage and blood
The undisputed, inviolate right
To call themselves the TRUE AMERICANS;
Whose ancestors were of whatever tribe,
Of Choctaw, Cherokee, or Wyandot,
Miami, Ottawa, or Ojibwa,
Or Shawnee, Seneca, Modoc, or Creek,
Quapaw, Sioux, Cheyenne, Peoria;
To all of these, and to all other tribes,
I dedicate the poems written here.


Wyandot Reserve
Ottawa County

“O-See-O,” a Cherokee word for greetings.


‘At’s how they sed it,
Wyandot, nub-bins;
It’s little’ fellas,
Corn, his ears.

Ol’ times, ol’ womans
Braid ‘em long string corns,
White an’ red an’ blue,
Hang it high in lodge
Fo’ winta’ times.

Don’ braid, don’ hang high;
Jus’ throw it one side
An’ braid ‘em nice corns,
To hang it high.

But when he’s done braid
All them fine big ear,
He’s take it nub-bins,
He’s shell ‘em, an’ made
Oh, good hominy!

‘Yon-doo-shah-we-ah’, Wyandot word meaning nubbins. Pronounce each syllable just as it is spelled; or rather just as each would be pronounced in English, with a slight accent on ‘doo’ and a more marked accent on ‘we.’ -Hentoh


Sent from the white lands of the North,
Emblem of peace and brotherhood,
Its first fruits ever offered
To The Great Spirit, then to the Sun;
To our Mother, the Earth; and the Waters;
To the North, to the South, the East, the West;
Then to each other.

A prayer goes to the One Great Spirit, thus;
Oh that the whole wide World could now
Accept the Redman’s ancient symbol,
Off’ring its incense to the Universe;
And blot out fierce, wild war’s red stain,
Bringing Good-will to earth again
With Peace, white Peace.


To J. W. C. On his leaving for the Army during the Great War.

You my fren’, no diff’ence what say, anyone,
If I seen you now, or don’ see fo’ years.
You know reason, t’aint what I done,
You could look my eye, don’ see it tears,
When you sed it: ‘Good-bye’.

You my pardner, you sed it one time,
It’s l-o-n-g ‘go, but me, I don’ fo’get;
If you go flat bust, an’ I got one dime,
I know wha’ you could fin’ nickel, I bet,
Or mebbe ten cent.

It’s jus’ that way all time, me an’ you,
We bin know’d each otha’ how you say, well.
I don’ care fo’ hundred snakes what you do;
Even you tell it me: ‘You go to hell,’
I could do it, e-a-s-y.

You come back war-trail, it’s be jus’ same,
Kin’ a smile and sed it: ‘You my pardner yet?’
I jus’ look at you an’ sed it you name,
Mebbe so wink it, then sed it: ‘You bet!’
I don’ fo’gotten nothin’.


You seen it that smoky, hazy, my frien’,
It’s hangin’ all ‘roun’ on edges of sky?
In moon of fallin’ leaves, ‘at’s when
It’s always come, an’ jus’ floatin’ by.

You know, my fren’, what’s make it that kin’?
It’s spirits o’ home-sick warriors come;
An’ somewha’s his lodge fires all in line.
Jus’ near as could get it to his ol’ home.

I think he’s like it, Happy Huntin’ Groun’,
It’s mus’ ta be nice, eva’thin’ ova’ tha’;
But, mebbe so, fo’ little’ bit, jus’ kin’ a look ‘roun’
When year it’s get ol’, an’ days an sky it’s fair,

He’s kin’ a like to wanda’ back ol’ huntin’ groun’.
But don’t want a stay, No, cause it’s all gone,
Beaver, Bear, Buffalo, all; it’s can’t be foun’;
Anyhow, makes good dream fo’ him, ’bout eva’ one.

So he’s come back an’ make it his lodge fire,
All ‘roun’ ova’ tha’ on edges of sky;
An’ it’s nice wa’m sun, an’ you don’t get tire,
Cause it’s Ol’ Injun Summa’-time, ‘at’s why.


What sed it Ol’ Injuns ’bout a spring-time?
Oh it’s pritty girl, it’s comin’ from a south,
All dress’ up in fine white buckskins.
He don’ walk, he’s jus’ dance,
He don’ look, he jus’ glance,
‘Roun’ at eva’body, pleasant,
Jus’ like happy;
An’ he’s bring it nice bowl o’ strawberry,
An’ jus’ scatta’ eva’wha’.

What sed it Ol’ Injuns ’bout a summa-time?
Oh it’s good woman followed that girl,
An’ it’s dress like a nice, jus’ all kin’ a green.
He don’ dance, jus’ kin’ a float,
Like on wata’, seen it, boat,
An’ jus’ smile ‘roun’ eva-wha’ goes,
Jus’ like good;
An’ he’s bring it string o’ squaw-corn,
An’ jus’ pile up eva’wha’.

What sed it Ol’ Injuns ’bout a fall-time?
Oh it’s young man comes from kin’ o’ west,
Huntin’ shirt an’ leggin’ kin’ o’ color brown.
He’s straight jus’ like an arrow,
An’ his fringes color, ‘yarrow’.
He’s got laugh in eye an’ it’s a keen,
Jus’ like brave;
An’ he’s bring it bunch o’ wil’ grape an’ acorn,
An’ jus’ hang up eva’ wha’.

What sed it Ol’ Injuns ’bout a winta-time?
Wooh! It’s o-l’ man, he’s comin’ from a north,
From lan’ of Great White Rabbit, ‘at’s his home.
His long robe its shine an’ glis’en,
You could heard it clink, you lis’en,
When he’s walk kin’ o’ slow
Jus’ like tired.
He’s bring lots o’ ice an’ plenty snow,
An jus’ drift up eva’wha’.


Eva’ fishin’ much? It’s good.
Sunshine in sky, shake in a wood,
Down on riva’ bank jus’ wait an’ wish
I could ketch im hurry, that dam fish;
Take ‘im home, cook ‘im, an’ eat im.

Sometimes it’s ketch ‘im right now,
Sometimes don’ ketch ‘im all day;
But Injun he’s sure know how
He could ketch ‘im a’right, ‘notha way.

Long ‘go ‘fore whiteman, he’s come here,
Ol’ Injun use to fishin’ with spear.
That kin’ o’ spear it’s make o’ stone’
He’s got hook too, make o’ bone;
But he could ketch ’em plenty fish
– sometime.

Sometime he’s fishin’ on a shore,
Sometime he’s fishin’ in canoe;
Some day he’s ketch ’em plenty more,
Some day it’s jus’ nothin’ do.

Now-days he’s got littl’ stick, green an’ red,
L-o-n-g line, he’s wind it up, ‘at’s how he sed.
It’s tie on end littl’ fish made o’ wood.
Lot’s o’ hook, seems to me it’s no good;
But he’s sure ketch ‘im b-i-g one,

That bass he’s like Injun, mebbe so,
Whiteman’s fool ‘im, since long ‘go.
Spec’ so, dam fool, bofe of it,
Cause you can’t fool ‘im, whiteman,
littl’ bit.


I think Injun like it betta’ ‘an anythin’, fire,
But I don’ jus’ know why.
Mebbe so it’s cause ‘at smokes go high,
Way up towar’ds a sky,
An’ could carried it message, higher an’ higher,
‘Til He’s got it, Great Spirit.
When he’s smoke it, Peace Pipe, anywha’
Council, or in lodge,
Smokes curl ‘jus’ kin’ a like it’s dodge
An’ carried it off, jus’ way up tha’,
‘Til He’s heard it, Great Spirit.

Long ‘sometime, he’s want it sen’ word
His frens way off, ‘notha’ wha.
He’s fin’ it high place, an’ tha’
Make it smokes go straight in air,
An’ his frens, it’s like they heard,
What he’s ask Him, Great Spirit.

An’ Injuns, his folks, time come when he die,
He’s bury him somewha’, not far,
An’ on grave, ’bout time it’s shine star,
He’s make it littl’ fire. What for?
It’s make it light fo’ soul on road, ‘at’s why,
To place wha’ He’s call ‘im, Great Spirit.


Say, he don’ smokin’, jus’ to smokin’,
Ol’ Injun, long ‘go,
Like he’s do eva’body, eva’wha’ now days,
Jus’ puff, puffin’ so.

Long ‘go, Injun’, he’s thinkin an’ thinkin’
‘Bout word he’s want to sent,
To Great Spirit, somethin’ it’s good one
To help ‘im, what it’s meant;
Then he’s smokin’ plenty.

He don’ sed nothin’, jus’ smokin’ an’ think
Jus’ ’bout that what he’s want.
He’s do this way long time, himse’f,
‘Til he’s sure it’s that way.

Don’ tole nobody ’bout it but jus’ hese’f,
‘Cause too much talk no good
Whiteman he’s smart, but not foun’ that out yet,
‘Spec’ so no b’lieve it, if he could

‘Put it in you pipe an’ smoke it’,
I hear ‘im, whiteman say.
It’s jus’ how he’s do, Ol’ Injun,
Meb’ so, ‘at’s how he pray.

Cause he don’ like it to tlak to Great Spirit,
An’ tole ‘IM it, what mus’ do,
So he’s think it, an’ smoke carry thinkin’
Eva’wha’, up wha’ looks blue.


Ol’ Big Tree, he’s bin down this way,
He’s tole me ’bout it, his horse.
It’s kin’ a ‘baw-ky’, how you say?
Jus’ stan’in’, won’t go, of course.

He say it’s all a time makes ‘im mad,
That horse, ’cause it’s don’ want go;
Sometime he’s want a work prit’ bad,
An’ that horse he’s stan’ jus’ so.

Otha’ day, he’s plow in squaw-corn patch,
‘Long side big road, down tha’.
That horse jus’ stan’, don’ move one scratch;
Big Tree, he’s cuss ‘im but horse don’ ca’.

By um by it’s comin’ down a road
That place, Big Tree, he’s plow,
Big noise, it’s what you call ‘im, Foad,
Lots a rattle, it’s ol’ one, now.

It’s come right wha’ he’s stan’, that horse.
He’s jump, Big Tree heap holla’ whoa;
That horse he’s plent scare of course,
Don’ lis’n to Big Tree, jus’ keep on go.

Big Tree He’s go prit’ hurry up too,
‘Cause it’s lines tie togetha, roun’ back.
He’s pull on lines, but that don’ do,
He’s jus’ got to folla’ in track.

He’s tell it, Big Tree, an’ he’s say:
‘Horse heap dam’ fool, that’s the one;
Sometime he’s go, sometime he’s stay,
He’s jus’ too ’nuff or too none.’


Say, you know that time that Ol’ Otta’
He’s slide down that mount’in from th’ sky?
Well, he’s wored it jus’ all a fur off his tail,
Jus’ smoof, an’ skin looks ugly an’ a’ dry.

He’s sure feel sorrow, ’cause it’s always bin,
He’s kin’ o’ proud o’ that tail jus’ all a time,
‘Cause it’s always bin cova’ jus’ nice sof’ fur,
An’ it’s looks good draggin’ long behin’.

Don’ got none, nobody, ‘at looks so fine,
‘Less it’s Mus’rat, his jus’ ’bout nex’ best;
He’s sure feelin’ prit’ bad, ‘at Ol’ Otta’,
‘Cause now his tail it’s look bad, ‘mongst th’ rest.

He’s jus’ stay at home, don’ went no-wha’
‘Cause he’s shame how it’s spoil it, ‘at tail;
It’s look so bad, he’s think eva’body laughin’,
If they seen ‘im comin’ down a trail.

But it’s ‘Rah-shu’ come ‘long an tole ‘im,
‘Bout big council, down a lake, he’s haf to go;
He don’ sed it nothin’, jus’ like thinkin’,
Then he’s start it, like he’s know what’s goin’ to do.

Mus’rat, he’s not b’long to that big council,
Sol Ol’ Otta’ he’s go to Mus’rat, his lodge.
That fella’ he’s sittin’ outside singin’
But when he’s see Ol’ Otta’, he’s dodge,
In a wata’.

Ol’ Otta’ couldn’ seen ‘im nowha’, Mus’rat,
So he’s holla’: ‘Ho’ my fren, I like spoke to you now;
I like to borrow’d you’ tail, to wear big council;
We could swap ’til I come back, I tole you how.’

Mus’rat, he’s good fella’, so he’s sed it, ‘A’right!’
An’ he’s swap with him his tail, that Ol’ Otta’
By um by he’s look behin’ ‘im, see that tail
An’ he’s so scare,
He’s jus’ hurry tumble ova’ in a wata’
To hide it that tail.

Ol’ Otta’ he’s go down a road, kin’ a chuckle, feelin’ good;
Its look good, that Mus’rat tail, draggin’ tha’ behin’.
So he’s go to that big council, jus’ feelin’ kin’ o’ proud;
But he neva’ did gif back to him, his tail, that Mus’rat,
An’ he’s eva’ since stay in a wata’


On the plains and in the vales of Oklahoma,
Grew a flower of the Tyrian hue,
The color that is loved by the Redman,
That tells him light and life,
And love are true.

Long ago it flamed in beauty on the prairies,
Lighting reaching vistas with its glow;
Ere advent of the whiteman and his fences,
Told the care-free, roving hunter
He must go.

The throng, the herd, and greed have madly trampled
Prairie, woodland, valley, and the height;
Crushed the feath’ry flower and rudely blighted
Its pride and life and beauty,
And its light.

Today ’tis found in silent glades and meadows
Where by twos and threes it greets the May.
Like the scattered braves who loved its color,
It has passed, been trodden out
Along the way.

As the oriflamme it flaunted through past ages
Went to gladden the fairness of the earth;
So the greatness of the Indian will linger
In the land that loves them both
And gave them birth.

Note: The Scarlet Painted Cup was called by the Wyandot, the Warrior’s Plume


Sleep, my little man-child,
Dream-time to you has come.

In the closely matted branches
Of the mesquite tree,
The mother-bird has nestled
Her little ones; see
From the ghost-hills of your fathers,
Purpling shadows eastward crawl,
While beyond the western sky-tint pale,
As twilight spreads its pall.

The eastern hills are lighted,
See their sharp peaks burn and glow,
With the colors the Great Sky-Chief
Gave your father for his bow.
Hush my man-child; be not frighted,
‘Tis the father’s step draws night.
O’er the trail along the river,
Where the arrow-weeds reach high
Above his dark head, see
He parts them with his strong hands,
As he steps forth into view.
He is coming home to mother,
Home to mother and to you.

Sleep my little man-child,
Daylight has gone.
There’s no twitter in the branches,
Dream-time has come.


Yo-ho, Little Medicine Brother in gray,
Yo-ho, I am list’ning to your call
As it comes from the edge of th’ chapparral,
And I wonder, what is that you say.

Now your voice is faint, it sounds far away.
Are you telling of the coming of friends?
Or do you say that the bison-herd wends
Hitherward, is distant but a day?

Now your notes are broken, sharp, and clear,
Warning of the coming of the foe;
Of their warriors and their spears I must know,
And must reckon by your yelps if they’re near.

When your tones quaver low like a child,
I know that gaunt famine cometh nigh;
And you shiver on your hummock closely by,
As you scent the grim, gray norther wild.


Lonely, open, vast and free,
The dark’ning desert lies;
The wind sweeps o’er it fiercely,
And the yellow sand flies.
The tortuous trail is hidden,
Ere the sand-storm has passed
With all its wild, mad shriekings,
Borne shrilly on its blast.

Are they fiends or are they demons
That wail weirdly as they go,
Those hoarse and dismal cadences,
From out their depths of woe?
Will they linger and enfold
The lone trav’ler in their spell,

Weave ‘round him incantations,
Brewed and bro’t forth from their hell?
Bewilder him and turn him
From the rugged, hidden trail,
Make him wander far and falter,
And trembling quail
At the desert and the loneliness
So fearful and so grim,
That to his fervid fancy,
Wraps in darkness only him?

The wind has spent its fierce wild wail,
The dark storm-pall has shifted,
Forth on his sight the stars gleam pale
In the purpling haze uplifted.

And down the steep trail, as he lists,
He hears soft music stealing;
It trembling falls through filmy mists,
From rock-walls faint echoes pealing.

Whence comes this mystic night-song
With its rhythm wild and free,
With is pleading and entreaty
Pouring forth upon the sea
Of darkness, vast and silent,
Like a tiny ray of hope
That oft-times comes to comfort
When in sorrow’s depths we grope?

‘Tis the An-gu, the Kat-ci-na,
‘Tis the Hopi’s song of prayer,

That in darkness wards off danger,
When ’tis breathed in the air;
Over desert, butte, and mesa,
It is borne out on the night,
Dispelling fear and danger,
Driving evil swift a-flight.


Light o’ the lodge, how I love thee,
Light o’ the lodge, how I love thee,
Mianza, my wild-wood fawn!
To wait and to watch for thy passing.
On hill-top I linger at dawn.

Glimmer of morn, how I love thee,
Glimmer of morn, how I love thee!
My flute to the ground now I fling,
As you treat the steep trail to the spring,
For thy coming has silenced my song.
Shimmer of moon on the river,
Sheen of soft star on the lake!
Moonlight and starlight are naught;
Their gleam and their glow is ne’er fraught
With such love-light as falls from thine eyes.


Hush thee and sleep, little one,
The feathers on thy board sway to and fro;
The shadows reach far downward in the water
The great old owl is waking, day will go.

Rest thee and fear not, little one,
Flitting fireflies come to light you on your way
To the fair land of dreams, while in the grasses
The happy cricket chirps his merry lay.

Tsa-du-meh watches always o’er her little one,
The great owl cannot harm you, slumber on
‘Till the pale light comes shooting from the eastward,
And the twitter of the birds says night has gone.

Hi-a-stah, Wyandot for father.
Tsa-du-meh, Wyandot for Mother.


‘O-he-zhuh’! ‘Ats how sed it, Wyandots;
‘O-hee-oh’! ‘At’s how say, Frenchman;
‘O-hi-o’! ‘At’s how sed it, Long Knives;
‘An’ it’s mean, beautiful riva’.

‘To-roon-toh’! ‘At’s what say, ol’ Wyandots;
‘To-ron-toh’! ‘At’s what call it, French;
‘To-ron-to’! ‘At’s what say, British;
‘An’ it’s mean, great rock standing.

‘Sci-non-to’! It’s that way in Wyandot;
‘Sci-yun-toh’! ‘At’s what sed, French;
‘Sci-o-to’! ‘At’s how sed Long Knives;
‘An’ it’s mean, plenty deer.


Win’ it’s in a south,
Kin’ a cloudy in a sky,
Good time to huntin’
Spec’ I go by um by.

Looks kin’ a smoky
All ‘roun a edge,
Spec’ could fin’ it, rabbit,
Down tha’ ‘long a hedge

‘Way down a Sycamo’,
Wha’ that ridge look blue,
You could fin’ it buck o’ doe,
Oh, fifty years ‘go.

An’ ‘way cross that valley,
Wha’ that timba thicken,
Early in a mornin’
Lots a pra’rie chicken.

Ova’ that long ridge,
Wha’ sky seem kin’ a murky,
You could hear ’em callin’
Plenty big wil’ turkey.

Duck, down on Gran’ Riva’
Flyin’ looks like cloud,
Sometime you could heard ‘im,
He’s quack plenty loud.

Sometime come wil’ pige’un,
He’s fly two three day,
Must a be fo’ milli’un
‘Fo He’s all gon ‘way.

Oh, lots a games them days,
You could prit’ nea’ grab it.
Now, can jus’ go down a road
An’ mebbe so fin’ rabbit.


It’s in Ohio, Shawnee town, all same time they born:
Te-cum-tha, La-lee-wah-see-ka, an’ littl’ ‘notha one.
He’s die that ‘notha one, jus’ when he’s born,
That las’ one, poo’h littl’ boy.
That fatha’ that motha’, both Sha-wah-no-ro-noh,
They b’long that band what come from fa’ south,
Come back to ol’ huntin’ grounds an’ they own peoples,
Cause Injun always like do that way;
But got none huntin’ grounds, now.

Great mans them two, Te-cum-tha, La-lee-wah-see-ka,
Great chief, warriors, leader of all they peoples.
That las’ one, he’s Shawnee Prophet,
An’ he’s see what’s goin’ do white-mans.
Te-cum-tha he’s great warrior; La-lee-wah-see-ka,
Hes big leader, always think of many things;
But shucks! It’s too many whitemans.
Two mouse can’t eat it big cornfield,
An’ it’s too many whitemans, yet.

Mebbe so he’s live otha’ one, poo’h littl’ fella’,
Three of it could done mo’ betta’ ‘an jus’ two;
But leva, min’, I guess no use, cause whitemans,
He’s jus’ want what Injuns got yet;
An’ he ain’ got it much, eitha’

Tecumtha (ordinary English form Tecumseh) and the Shawnee Prophet, were two of triplets, the third dying at birth.


Eva’ sleep it out a’ doors, you,
Just on the groun’? It’s you’ motha’.
Could look up at sky, it’s kinda’ blue,
Little sta’s look at each otha,
And wink ’em little bit,
Ain’t it?

Wonda’ what made it, all them sta’?
‘Spec’ it’s little bits of sun broke it off;
‘Cause he’s run fas’, and he’s go fa’,
And ‘spec’ sometimes the road’s might rough.
Might be that kin’,
Aint it?

Sometimes little breeze, he’s blow cool,
Feel good, make it f-i-n-e sleep it.
I like that kin’, I don’t fool’
Fella’ got sof’ bed could keep it.
Don’t want that kin’, me,
Aint it?

Them fella’s bug what a singin’
Up in a tree, go siz-z-z,
Soun’s like a nice, that ringin’;
Make it good sleep; gee whizz!
I could sleep it summa’ time,
Aint it?


‘Bout come daylight, it’s sky kin’ a blue,
An’ all ‘roun’ edges, mo’ blue an’ smokey;
It’s kin’ a chilly col’, and’ it’s shiva’, you
When you jus’ move ‘roun’ kin’ a pokey.

Hills ‘way off, it’s look kin’ a nice,
An’ you jus’ like to stan’ an’ look
Once fa’ as you could, an’ mebbe so, twice,
Seems jus’ like picture in a book .

Only picture, it couldn’ make it that good,
‘Cause Great Spirit, He’s make it that one;
You could see wha’s riva’, valley, an a wood,
Ova’, tha’ wha’ he’s comin’ up, son.

By um by, when sun, he’s get up straight,
It’s a h-o-t, you don’ shiva’, jus’ want a laid
On a nice sof’ grasses down tha’ by th’ gate,
Unda’ big black-jack trees, in a shake, ‘Aint it?


Weengk, he’s lit’l fella’ make you sleep it,
You can’t seem ‘im, you eye too big.
He’s hidin’ eva’ wha’ an he’s keep it
Dance all a time, what you call it,-jig.

He’s carry lit’l war-club, hit ’em sleepy come,
Eva’body, anywha’, make ’em sleepy come,
You can’t staed wake’em, go jus’ like dead,
An’ Weengk fin’ ‘notha’ fella’, hit him some.

He’s you fren’, that Weengk, ‘at’s a fac’,
Eva’body got to sleep it, now an’ then’
But mebbe so, he’s jump it on you back,
When you hunt it, an’ jus’ got to shoot ‘gen.

It’s bad lucks that one, deer run ‘way,
Cause can’t shoot it good if make feel lazy,
But that fella, he’s come, jus’ any time a day,
An’ you sure want sleep it like you crazy.

NOTE: ‘Weengk’ is the Odjibwa Spirit of Sleep.

By Hen-toh.

For ages long, my people have been
Dwellers in this land;
For ages viewed these mountains,
Loved these mesas and these sands,
That stretch afar and glisten,
Glimmering in the sun
As it lights the mighty canons
Ere the weary day is done.
Shall I, a patient dweller in this
Land of fair blue skies,
Tell something of their story while
My shuttle swiftly flies?
As I weave I’ll trace their journey,
Devious, rough and wandering,
Ere they reached the silent region
Where the night stars seem to sing.
When the myriads of them glitter
Over peak and desert waste,
Crossing which the silent runner and
The gaunt co-yo-tees haste.
Shall I weave the zig-zag pathway
Whence the sacred fire was born;
And interweave the symbol of the God
Who brought the corn-
Of the Rain-god whose fierce anger
Was appeased by sacred meal,
And the trust that my brave people
In him evermore shall feel?
All this perhaps I might weave
As the woof goes to and fro,
Wafting as my shuttle passes,
Humble hopes, and joys and care,
Weaving closely, weaving slowly,
While I watch the pattern grow;
Showing something of my life:
To the Spirit God a prayer.
Grateful that he brought my people
To the land of silence vast;
Taught them arts of peace and ended
All their wanderings of the past.
Deftly now I trace the figures,
This of joy and that of woe;
And I leave an open gate-way
For the Dau to come and go.

NOTE: There is an irregularity in every design woven into a Navajo blanket, thus leaving a place for the ‘Dau’ or spirit of the blanket to go out and in.


Bit by bit with tireless effort,
Was the hard flint flaked to form
Tip for shaft and spear-head
Long ago.

Time was counted naught in those days,
And the end sufficed the needs
Of the patient worker
For his bow.

Skilled in craft of plain and mountain,
He must ever be alert,
In the haunts of bison,
Or of deer.

On the shores of lak and river,
Trod his moccasin’e foot,
As he sought shy quarry
For his spear.

Lithe of limb with might of muscle,
Swiftly wends he o’er the portage,
Shoulders bearing lightly
His canoe.

Should he meet a wily foeman,
As he treads the darksome glades
His the need to dare then
And to do.

Thoughts like these come as we wander
O’er the fallowed fields and find
In our path an old

And new form in fervid fancy,
As we scan th’ enduring flint,
A measure of those brave
Warriors dead.


Big-knife [7]

Joe Bigknife he’s liv’d ova’ on a Spring Riva’ [8]
He’s had ferry at th’ Ol’ Jim Charley Ford. [9]
Joe, he’s tallest one of them Injun Police,
An’ if he’s sed it somethin’ he’s mean it eva’ word,
Tho’ he don’ talk it all a time eitha’.

His house it’s a jus’ ’bout half a mile ‘way
From ferry an’ the ford, it’s by th’ hill.
If riva’s up, he’s at th’ house, could seen it comin’ team [10]
Comin’ otha’ way, they holla’, an jus’ wait until
Joe, he’s come took ’em ova’ on th’ ferry.

It’s summa’ time, evenin’, it’s a fella’ comin’ south,
He’s coming down a riva’, stop, an’ give a shout.
Joe, he’s answa’ from th’ house, but he’s kin’ a slow,
Man, he’s got big hurry, try th’ ford, an’ ju’ pull out, [11]
When Joe, he’s comin’ down to th’ riva’.

Joe sed it: Whiteman, you too hurry. Don’ I sed it
I come all a time if you holla’? I mean it what I say.
An’ he’s pull it out his gun, then sed it ‘notha’ ‘gen: [12]
Now turn it ‘roun’ you wagon, you go back ‘gen otha’ way,
It’s kin’ a deep, but ‘spec’ you make it anyhow.

‘I come ova in a boat, prit’ soon, an’ brought you back.’
‘At’s what he’s it, Joe, an’ fella’ sed: ‘How much?’
Joe sed it: Keep it you’ money, white man; nex’ time
Don’ hollered, you don’ want a me come cause
Kin’ a way, I don’t like it that kin’.

Dam’ fool, sometimes drowned you wagon, eva’thing,
Tryin’ cross a riva, when it’s wata’ it’s too deep.
Now betta’ pull it out, you got so hurry.
Betta’ drive it on quick, cause mebbe I can’t keep
From sayin’ somethin’ ‘fo’ you go


High Waters

Bearskin, he’s live down on Grand Riva’,
Gilstrap Ferry, on ol’ Military Road,
Goin’ south, down to Ol’ Fort Gibson.
It’s been lots a rainin’, ‘bout one week.
Bearskin, he’s in Seneca, he’s tradin’,
Talkin’ ‘bout a weather with Murdock,
Bearskin, he’s sed it:
‘Oh, rain just’ like a hell;
Fall down jus’ like pour out a bucket.
Riva’ it’s a high like a tree.’



It’s Winney, he’s one a them Injun Poleez,
Sometimes he’s got kin’ a braggin’ way.
It’s a bunch a fellas stanin’ out by a trees,
An’ Winney he’s tole ‘em one day:
‘I neva’ did cock it whiteman on my pistol, yet.’

Notha’ ‘Gen.
It’s issue day at Agency, an’ all them fellas on hand,
Winney, jus’ kin’ a braggin’, he’s talkn’ ‘bout Splitlog Band:
Y’ oughta’ heard it, maybe pooty moosics,
Me, I play it secon’ alto, jus’ easy to blow.

Whitetree, he’s got it, that b-i-g drum,
He’s hit ‘im, ‘bout bust ‘im, it’s go bum, bum, bum.
We got it lit’l book, lots a tune, Nellie Gray,
An’ Red an’ White an’ Blue,
An’ tha’ Gran’fatha Clocks, he’s a dandy.
Bes’ one of all of it tho’, le’s see, it’s lumba’ eight,
It’s a p-o-o-t-y one, you bet’cha:
Yankey Dooley; sweet as fo’ honey,
Ain’t it, Whitetree?

Note: He intended to say, ‘I never did cock my pistol on a white man yet’. To understand, insert pause after ‘on.’


1. Ortiz, Alfonso. “Indian/White Relations; A View from the Other Side of the Frontier” Indians in American History; An Introduction. Ed. Frederick Hoxie. Wheeling, IL; Harlan Davidson, 1998.

2. Walker, B. N. O. Tales from the Bark Lodge. Oklahoma City, Harlow P, 1919.

3. Clarke, Peter Dooyentate. Origin and traditional history of the Wyandotts: and sketches of other Indian tribes of North America, true traditional stories of Tecumseh and his league, in the years 1811 and 1812. Toronto; Hunter, Rose and Co, 1870.

4. Dippie, Brian W. The Vanishing American; White Attitudes and U.S. Indian Policy. Lawrence, KS; University Press, 1982.

5. Porter, Joy. To Be Indian. Norman; University of Oklahoma Press, 2001.

6. It was government policy to hire Indians as policemen on the reservations. They worked under orders from the agents.

7. Joe Bigknife was killed in the line of duty by Amos Valliere, a Quapaw. Interview with Nannie L. Newman, April 12, 1938, and interview with Lee Newman, December 23, 1937, in “Indian-Pioneer History” (Oklahoma City: Indian Archives Division of the Oklahoma Historical Society), 70:56 and 37:543.

8. The Spring River flows south from Kansas and into the Grand (or Neosho) near present-day Wyandotte, Oklahoma, about fifteen miles south of the Kansas line.

9. The Jim Charley ford, apparently later known as the Big-knife ford, was located on the Spring River about six miles southwest of present day Peoria, Oklahoma. Interview with Edward Peckham, January 25, 1938, and interview with Lee Newman, December 23, 1937, in “Indian-Pioneer History,” 93:183 and 37:543.

10. That is, he could see the team coming.

11. That is, the man was in a hurry and tried the ford rather than waiting for the ferry.

12. That is, Joe pulls out his gun and speaks again.

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