(based on an idea by Milena Harrison)
Once upon a time, in the great prairies of America, there lived two Native American tribes, side by side. Sadly, these tribes had forgotten how to live in peace, and were at war with each other, each wanting the other’s land to camp on, each claiming they had a greater right to that land. From time to time, one tribe raided the other one and caused great damage and destruction.
And this is how our story starts, in the middle of one of these raids...
In the Tribe of the Wolf Warriors, there lived a couple who had just celebrated the birth of their first baby girl. Today was her naming ceremony. The camp fire was lit and the whole tribe was gathered, ready for the special celebration. Native Americans used to give their children lovely, meaningful names, like: Condor of the Sun, Golden Flower and Swiftest in the Canoe. The Chief stood up proudly, ready to give the newest member of the tribe her name.
Suddenly, battle cries were heard, and into the middle of their camp charged the neighbouring Tribe of the Fierce Bears, with bows and arrows and fighting sticks, and the naming ceremony was destroyed. A Fierce Bear’s arrow flew... and struck the baby girl’s mother! She fell to the ground. In the commotion that followed, the baby’s name was quite forgotten, and because the memory of that day was so terrible, the little girl grew up known simply as... Girl With No Name.
The years passed. Girl With No Name grew up with her father, who lovingly told her stories of her mother, Silver Willow. Sometimes the Wolf Warrior Tribe children were mean to her and taunted her, ‘You’ve got no na-ame, you’ve got no na-ame’. Whenever this happened, Girl With No Name felt hot and fiery inside, and her breath came in sharp bursts, and she wished she could puff it out in bursts of flame at her tormentors, like a dragon.
One day, a group of children came up to her and said to her in sneering tones, ‘Hey, No Name - you’re nobody. You don’t count. You don’t really belong to the Wolf Warriors.’ Girl With No Name felt she would erupt like a volcano with all the hot fire inside her. So she ran away to the river and climbed into a canoe, and paddled off at great speed down the river. She was very skilled at handling a canoe, but it was not allowed for Wolf Warrior tribe children to paddle down the river alone. But she didn’t care, she just had to get away, and paddled with all her might.
Eventually she came to the Place Where Two Rivers Meet, and suddenly here the river went from being calm to being choppy and swirly. All the tribe children knew the currents here were dangerous. Her hot, angry feeling had faded by now and was replaced by a cold, fearful feeling. No matter how furiously she paddled, she could not get her canoe to move the way she wanted it to go. ‘Help!’ she cried, though she knew there was no-one to hear her.
Suddenly the wind picked up and the sky looked dark, with bunched-up purply-blue clouds. She knew this meant a storm was coming.
There was a little island, with lots of trees, exactly in the middle of the Place Where Two Rivers Meet. In a big gust of wind, a sturdy tree branch dipped to the river. Girl With No Name clung to the branch and it seemed to help pull her canoe to the shore. Safe again, her angry feelings came back. ‘They said I don’t count, that I don’t belong,’ she thought. Well, if that’s how they feel, I’ll go down the other river and never come back. That’ll show them! Then they’ll be sorry!’
She felt very tired from all that paddling and the upset, and sat down to rest at the base of a large willow tree near the shore. ‘I’m never going back... never going back,’ she muttered sleepily. A couple of the willow’s branches seemed to lower themselves to the ground and form two gentle arms , cradling her protectively from the wind. The silvery, feathery leaves seemed to stroke her face. Girl With No Name felt very drowsy...
As she drifted off to sleep, she heard a whispering in the leaves rustling around her face, ‘It is your decision which fork of the river to take, but your father and I love you dearly and want you to return. You have important work to do there. Return, return...’
Girl With No Name jerked awake, startled. What was that voice? Where did it come from? Why did it say, ‘Your father and I?’’ She looked around, but no-one was there. It sounded as if it had come from the willow tree. ‘I must have been dreaming,’ she sighed. The whispering voice came again, and now she was wide awake. ‘Look closer. Look closer.’ So she looked. She walked around the trunk. In its knots and patterns, she began to see the form of a wise, kindly face. ‘I know you very well,’ said the voice, that seemed to come from among the leaves and branches, but also from deep inside the heart of the tree. ‘I am the spirit of your mother. An arrow from The Tribe of the Fierce Bears pierced me when you were just a baby, and killed my human body, but not the spirit inside. I took the form of this willow tree. My tribal name was Silver Willow and the willow was my totem tree. I am still with you. Any time you want to feel me near you, think of a willow tree and confide your thoughts to me.’
Her daughter wept, ‘The children are mean to me. They call me Girl With No Name . I feel like I don’t belong.’
Again, the wind rustled the feathery, silvery leaves, gently stroking her hair, and the comforting voice said, ‘You are so much more than a name. Go home and find that out for yourself. Choose a stick from one of my branches to help you.’
Girl With No Name felt so much more peaceful and strong inside herself than before. She hugged Silver Willow and returned to her canoe. The wind huffed and puffed her back to her camp in an instant, as if by magic. Her father was overjoyed to see her again. He’d been so worried.
A short time afterwards, the Tribe of the Fierce Bears raided the camp of the Wolf Warriors once again. The usual battling and shouting started, no-one listening to the other. Suddenly, a warrior drew his bow, and the arrow was pointing directly at Girl With No Name! ‘No!’, cried her father, ‘Years ago you killed her mother, don’t take my daughter away from me too!’
Girl With No Name bravely held up her stick, which she’d brightly decorated. ‘Stop fighting,’ she commanded. ‘My mother wasn’t killed. She lives on in the form of a willow tree. I’ve met her. She gave me this stick, and now I give it to you as a gift, Tribe of the Fierce Bears, to help us talk to each other. Whoever holds the stick may talk for a short time, then place it on the ground. While someone is talking, everyone else must listen and not interrupt. That way we can try to solve our problems peacefully and to understand other points of view.’
So the stick from Silver Willow became known as the Talking Stick. The two tribes called regular pow-wows, where they discussed their differences peacefully. And at ten years old, the girl finally had her naming ceremony. The Chief gave her the name... ‘Peace Bringer’.
And from this story, let us act on Peace Bringer’s wish to bring peaceful communication between all people and all tribes, wherever they live, whatever they look like, whatever they believe.
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