February 11, 2012

White Face Woman: 2 of 8


Fort Walsh Officers
Wood Mountain was a small detachment not far away.
At the height of the starvation, several Sioux maidens consented to become wives of the Red Coats who courted them. Major Jarvis was the first to take a Sioux wife. She was the eldest child and daughter of Plant by the Water (Mai-co-ju). There were many beautiful Sioux maidens, who, when seen, would leave a lasting imprint on mind and heart. White Face Woman was said to be the queen of all. Not only her looks—her whole being was magic.
     How the major first saw her is not known, but the general belief is that he chanced upon her at a watering place where she had discarded her robe and, in a nearby stream, was washing her hair. Never a day passed that the Major did not make two or three visits to White Face Woman. He was in great difficulty because of the differences in tongue. His heart cried out to tell of the love blazing within his core.
     Through a Metis woman, an interpreter, bound to secrecy, the Major spoke and with  no long courtship he and White Face Woman became man and wife. “If this man promises to see that my little brothers and sister have something to eat twice a day, I will become his wife,” bargained White Face Woman.
     In all her eighteen summers she had known the white men as a man to fear, night and day. He was a spirit man not of this world—out to destroy her race and take away all that the Indians loved and lived for. Who knew, but that tomorrow these Red Coats, like the American Long Knives, would renew the Big Horn battle here? Was it not because of the white mean that all this hardship had fallen on her people?
     Had not the Sioux made sacred treaties with the Long Knives that were then shamelessly broken because of the red iron, gold, on Sioux land? The chiefs had lost faith in the Spirit men.
     The decision to marry the major was a terrible sacrifice, for herself and her kin, for White Face Woman. To look at the lean faces of the two brothers and little sister and to see her father return home late, empty handed, demanded something from her. So she gave that something from her heart.
     The marriage of White Face Woman to a chief of the Red Coats was the talk of the Sioux. It was the first case of its kind in Sitting Bull’s band. Speculation as to what it might lead to was rife among the people of the hills.
     A large tipi, with all the furnishing, was erected for White Face Woman within the stockade of the post. Her two brothers and her sister spent time with her there the whole day.
     Never lived a happier man than the major. Seldom a day passed that the couple did not ride out to the beauty spots in the hills—when they returned White Face Woman would be laden with flowers. When those hunting chanced upon them they would hear them laughing—their mirth was over each trying to pronounce words of the other’s language.
     There were pleasant outings when the major and his wife dressed in her finery of fringed and ornamented white tanned dresses. In his best uniform, he made round and round the great circle of the Sioux camp with her, greeting the Indians with a nod or salute. When he made such a show of his wife, the people said to themselves, “How this man must love his wife—but what a strange way to show it.”

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