It’s a stifling dawn, in the Moon of the Green Grass Up, summer in 1833. An eleven-year-old Cherokee, First Light, springs to her feet. There is no time to dress. There is no time to put on her Elk skin boots. Fear chills every inch of her tiny naked body. She leaps from her family’s hut as if chased by a Mountain Lion.
But, as she reaches the edge of the village, something tells her to glance over her shoulder. Monstrous flames gobble-up six special Pine Trees. She remembers what her father said when they first arrived here. ‘See my Little One, those Pine Trees stand for our family. There are six of them and six of us. Maybe we will at last rest from running from the soldiers.’
I’ve got to stop running, screams her mind. I must go back!
But in every direction, she’s mobbed by fleeing Cherokees. Again, her mind screams. If these grown-up Cherokees don’t know which way to run, how am I supposed to know? But I can’t just keep standing here!
Just as she dares to take a step into the dense black smoke, she hears a soldier’s sinister voice. “I can hear you! Give up! You know I’ll catch you!”
As she runs to her left, she hears another soldier, “None of you injuns will be get away from us! Give up!”
Hysteria consumes her. There’s nowhere to run! The soldiers are everywhere!
She feels like a calf amongst huge stampeding buffalos. If I don’t run, my own people will trample me!
Then, a flash of anger dampens her hysteria. She screams at the grown-up Cherokees. “How come you are running away? What secret power do these soldiers have over you?”
Again, she hollers. But this time in a passionate prayer. “Great Spirit give me the Antelope Medicine and the Eagle Medicine! I will not be like the grown-ups! I will not run like some frighten Finch!”
She leaps as like an Antelope; over, around, and through, the grown-up Cherokees. She navigates around weaving racks, baskets, wood piles, like a soaring Eagle.
She feels her eldest brother from her heart. She imagines they’re racing. That drives her to dart through the tall field of maize with lightning quickness.
But, once in the clearing, she pleads, “Great Spirit, why can’t I see the sun? Why can’t I see the sky?” “Oh, Great Spirit!” She sinks to her knees and whispers. “The soldiers have gone too far! They’ve even burned our homes. But why have they also burned the forests? These soldiers are so evil!”