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Red White or Blue: The 1875-1876 Journey of a Lakota Chief's Son and an Army Major's Daughter

Red White or Blue: The 1875-1876 Journey of a Lakota Chief's Son and an Army Major's Daughter

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Red White or Blue: The 1875-1876 Journey of a Lakota Chief's Son and an Army Major's Daughter

372 pages
5 heures
Sep 21, 2015


Red White or Blue is a thoroughly researched historical fiction novel set in 1875 and 1876. The adventure is narrated by two teens with culturally contrasting perspectives. First, Ohanzee, a sixteen-year-old son of a Lakota chief, witnesses an event which changes his life forever when he is forced to leave his tribe and learn the ways of the invading white man. Next, Sara, a fifteen-year-old daughter of an army major, learns she will accompany her parents west for an assignment at Fort Randall in Dakota Territory.

Months later, Ohanzee's and Sara's paths cross and they struggle to survive on the prairie. Through crisis, the teens are forced to face their different set of core values, different cultures, extreme perceptions of the Indian Wars and Manifest Destiny, faith, courting, death, and the meaning of life.

The story of Red White or Blue illuminates the human condition as Ohanzee attempts to regain the honor of his people and Sara struggles to survive and discover her individuality. Throughout the novel, the teens interact with famous historical legends, such as William Mayo, Calamity Jane, Grant Marsh, George Armstrong Custer, Bishop Martin Marty, Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull. The reader will be surprised with unexpected crisis along their journey which demands cross-cultural reconciliation, a sense of humor, determination and self-sacrifice.

Red White or Blue, raises questions of hidden prejudices within ourselves. If the novel is used in an educational setting, the Red White or Blue Student Workbook and the Red White or Blue Teacher's Guide create a comprehensive historical study of our nation's controversial period of 1875-1876.

Sep 21, 2015

À propos de l'auteur

Prior to investigating the truths and lies of history, Sue Hillard was an FBI agent in New York and Houston. She creatively integrates historical research with unforgettable fictional characters who strive to discover their own individuality, values, purpose, and grit. Sue has now returned to her roots: she lives in the middle of nowhere, on the windy plains of South Dakota.

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Red White or Blue - Sue Hillard




JULY 1875



I heard the sound of men. White men—wasicu, as we called them in our language. The sun had nearly set as I hunted small game for our dinner. My father, Touch the Clouds, stayed behind to set up our camp for the night. The original focus of tracking rabbit and squirrel shifted to tracking humans, which led me to a ridge, overlooking a creek. As I peered over the ledge, four white men danced in a slow-moving stream as they lifted up small rocks into the air.

We’re rich! We’re rich! they hollered.

Father had taught me bits of their language, but I didn’t need it. The men had found gold—gold nuggets from the land that they trespassed upon. My land. The land of my people.

I quickly maneuvered back to camp, where Father waited. Over the last few months, tribe runners had spread rumors of the white man flooding into our land. Nobody stopped him. Father could hardly believe the alarming news and wanted to see the trespassers with his own eyes. So only five days earlier, Father and I left our village on the prairie and rode our horses to our sacred hills.

Four wasicu, I explained to Father.

Collect our things. I need to see with my own eyes, Father replied, as he kicked dirt over the small campfire.

My horse, Kola, took the lead as we worked our way to the ridge where I had been an hour before. The sun had set, yet Father and I could see the four white men around a fire. They were eating from tin cans and drinking from glass bottles. I knew the bottles all too well, because the liquid—white man’s firewater—had changed the spirit within many Lakota men.

Father motioned for me to wait. We leaned against a pine tree and watched, both motionless and speechless, as the men celebrated below and drank beyond their fill.

Now we go, Ohanzee, my father whispered. We will take their horses and guns.

We looped around the ridge and tied our horses deep in the forest. On foot, we crept closer to their camp. Close enough to hear their slurred conversation.

We’ll take the bag to Deadwood in the morning. Cash out. Buy some girls. A few card games at the Number 10 Saloon, one said. Then we’ll come back and make a real camp outta this place. Just the four of us. The laughing men slapped each other on the back. I did not understand each word, but made sense of the exchange. They were gold-seeking trespassers who did not care about treaties.

Go ahead, JoJo, blow it all on sin. We know where to find more, another man said. They shook hands, staggering around. Partners. Very rich partners! one of the men repeated over and over again.

Within a stone’s throw of the men, I was disappointed to see only one mule tied to a nearby tree. A pack lay beside the worn-out animal. I looked at him, wondering if he would give our presence away, but I saw no intention in his odd eyes, one brown and the other blue. Father gestured to leave the mule alone. I already knew we had no use for him.

We backed away, a safe distance in the trees, becoming shadows in the night. As we peeked between the thick trees, the campfire gave just enough light for us to watch the four drunk men stumble onto their blankets and fall asleep. We waited patiently for the rumble of snores.

Just as we took our first steps toward the camp, two of the men rose from the still-flickering flames with their guns in hand. We froze. Father reached for the bow, slung behind his back. The two men snuck to a pack beside the fire and took the pouch of gold nuggets. Their motions were no longer those of the drunk white men. They left everything else behind and crept to the mule, only steps from where we crouched. Father had taught me well, and we both knew to silently watch and wait. One man untied the mule. The other leaned over, picked up the pack, and hoisted it onto the mule’s back. Something clanked.

Shhhhhhh. You idiot, JoJo! the prospector whispered, as they led the mule toward us. In the shadows and concealed behind my frozen image, I sensed Father pulling back the arrow in his bow. I could have reached out and touched the prospectors’ filthy canvas pants, still wet from their day in the creek. Without moving my head, my eyes darted toward Father. He must have known how I wanted to count my first coup, but his eyes said no. Just to reach out and touch the enemy with a stick or my hand would represent extreme bravery. Father would be the required witness and I would finally have a feather for my hair. Since Father’s instinct dampened my impulse, I remained merely a shadow as the white men disappeared into the trees. Their stench remained. I stared into Father’s eyes and saw that something had changed within him. I had never seen it before, but I sensed our life would never be the same.

I have seen enough, Father whispered. We go home now.

We saw no more trespassers as we rode from our sacred hills to our prairie. When we reached our village, my grandfather, Chief Lone Horn, called Father into his tipi. When they came out, the news shocked me.

I have chosen you, Ohanzee. You need to do this for our people. Black Robe made me a generous offer. The other Lakota tribes are sending boys your age to study the white-man ways with Black Robe. You will go and do your best, Grandfather said.

But what will I do there?

Seeing that Grandfather’s voice was weak, Father interjected, We can’t stop this flowing river of white men if we don’t understand them. You must learn to speak and write as a wasicu. We have enough warriors. What we need is someone who can protect us in a different way—a very important way.

It was settled. My next course in life was already decided in an unusual way. Typically, the Great One revealed a Lakota boy’s future through a dream or vision. Instead, I was forced down this path by Grandfather and Father. This decision did not stem from my heart, but from theirs.[2] I was born a Lakota, a native of the plains. My tribe is the Miniconjou, one of seven Lakota tribes. As early as I can remember, I was taught the values of obedience and sacrifice for the benefit of our people, values that made us strong. So I had no choice. I was heading away from what I knew, taking steps toward white-man ways. My ultimate purpose was set before me: protect my people from white-man deception.

I was apprehensive because I knew little of the man who my people called Black Robe. His full name was Black Robe Lean Chief. My people simply used the name Black Robe for most of the white men who came to tell us about their god, because the men usually wore plain long black robes. Black Robe Lean Chief had personal reasons for inviting the Lakota to live with him at Standing Rock. His goal was for us to learn English and discover the white man’s God. I knew he was respected because he moved to our land to carry on the work of Grandfather’s friend, Black Robe DeSmet.

Father said we would ride together to Standing Rock, which was not far from our summer camp. Then, he would lead Kola, my horse, back to the camp and give him away to whomever I chose. The night fire was a perfect place to contemplate the recipient of my gift. I watched each person in our band who did not have a horse. The person must be needy, yet kind and levelheaded. Dance with Sun was a bit too irresponsible; she might forget to water Kola every day. Kills Many was an old man in our band without a horse, yet I recalled his occasional violent temper. He would not do. I hoped to keep the gift within our band, but if I had to extend out to the whole tribe, I would.

Then my eyes drifted to Bird Nest, who sat alone in front of her tipi, too far away from the fire to feel the comforting, radiant heat. She was a small, elderly woman with weak legs and a huge hump in her back. Watching her walk sent chills down my spine because the pain of each step seemed excruciating. I wanted to grab her shoulders and straighten her posture, but it was too late. Her story was tragic; one year, her three young children died from a white-man disease; the next year, her husband was killed in a battle. She wandered through the rest of her years as a damaged soul. Bird Nest never remarried and quit taking care of her appearance. Some thought she was a bit crazy, with unkempt hair and her habit of talking to invisible people. I disagreed; she was just different after losing everyone she loved. She did not talk to invisible people but to the Creator. Bird Nest was not affectionate toward humans, probably out of the fear of losing them. Despite this, she was kind to all the animals in our village. She seemed to appreciate routine, chore after chore, day after day. Bird Nest would care for Kola just as well as I did. In turn, my horse would surely give her companionship for the rest of her life, whatever small amount of time may be left.

I walked over to Bird Nest and uncomfortably towered over her. Squatting down at a respectable distance, I dropped my weight to my knees.

Well, well. My boy. I heard you are leaving us to learn white-man language.


With their language comes added responsibility.

I understand.

Does that worry you? Bird Nest asked.

Yes, I repeated, hoping for deeper insight from Bird Nest. I respected her perseverance amid unfortunate hardship.

I will talk to our Creator when you are gone. I will ask for your fears to go away, she stated in a matter-of-fact way, as if my apprehension had already dissolved.

Thank you, Bird Nest. I have something to give you. Would you like my horse? He is a smooth ride and very loyal. He will follow you to the creek and warn you of rattlesnakes. I know your legs are weak, and he will carry you from camp to camp.

I can’t accept him, she mumbled.


If I love him, he’ll die. Just like my family.

No. He won’t die from your love. He’ll be your friend. He’ll love you back and appreciate all you do for him. Please take him.

A tear silently dropped from Bird Nest’s eye. She looked up at me, in a sort of desperation.

I changed my tactic. I need your help. I need you to care for him. He is a good horse. You are a good match.

She nodded and it was settled. Kola would go to Bird Nest. Father explained over the next few days that he did not know all of the details of my education. He said that other Lakota tribes were sending students because the opportunity was critical to the survival of the Lakota people. The Oglala tribe, led by Red Cloud, was sending two students.[3] Sitting Bull, chief of the Hunkpapa tribe, was also sending two students, One Bull and Good Bear. I knew One Bull. He was two winters older than I, and as the adopted son of Sitting Bull, I assumed he was destined for leadership. One Bull’s and my paths had crossed because Grandfather and Father worked closely with Sitting Bull to keep our Lakota nation strong. Unfortunately, One Bull was mean. When I was a small boy and our tribes gathered together a few times a year, One Bull threw dirt in my eyes when nobody was looking. He also kicked me in the shins and spit in my face. When elders were present, he only appeared aloof. Something dark grew within him.

I did not understand why other tribes were sending two students each, yet Grandfather only assigned me. He said I needed to become independent and did not need a friend as a walking stick to help me along. I thought a friend would make the time more tolerable because deep down, I dreaded leaving my people. I was coming to my seventeenth winter, and the new responsibility I bore toward my tribe was hard to bear.

What will I do when I am not learning? I will be bored.

Grandfather seemed impatient with me and answered sternly, Grandson, boredom is the sign of a slow mind. Constantly ask yourself how you can keep growing. The Great One gifted you the legs of a deer. Don’t let them wither away. Spend time with One Bull. Your differences are not as great as you envision in your head. One day the two of you may lead side by side. You will not be bored if you keep your hands busy. Ask Black Robe if you can make arrows. He is against war but understands our need to hunt. Be helpful to Black Robe. This is an honor, not a task.

Still, I felt like it was a task.

On the day of my journey to Black Robe, I rose early and found Bird Nest by the creek, patiently waiting for me. The old woman handed me a parfleche, a rawhide-covered bundle, ornately beaded and full of pemmican and gooseberry mush.[4]

I know it is not much, but it is all I have to give.

It is beautiful. Thank you, I told her, admiring the intricately beaded pattern that must have taken many seasons to complete.

Tell me what I need to know, she requested in a thin voice.

Immediately, I knew I had picked the perfect person for Kola, whose name meant friend. I shared a bit about his disposition, like how he loved to be scratched under his belly. But I left most of Kola’s qualities and quirks for Bird Nest to discover on her own. Though I knew giving Kola away was the right thing to do, I was still upset. He was the only possession I deeply valued. My moccasins were a distant second.






The frontier is too dangerous for a refined woman and a fifteen-year-old girl, Dad said.

His frustrated words were deliberately clear and easier to hear than my mother’s whispers. My parents had sent me to bed shortly after dinner. I couldn’t fall asleep with the hard curlers poking into my ears and head. Plus, I needed to use the privy. Actually, our house did not have what my mother called modern conveniences, but, unlike most homes in our New York City neighborhood, the small addition on the back of our house had a white claw-foot bathtub. Most of our neighbors just used a wash-basin, a bar of soap, and a wash cloth for a bath. Yes, we had a bathtub which in theory was a luxury. In truth, the water was never quite the right temperature, and it took great effort to draw the bath because we heated the water on the stove. An iron pipe fit into the tub’s drain which dropped through a hole in the floor and led to the flower garden. Our privy also had a chamber pot, which I used when the night was too cold or too dark to venture outside to our backyard outhouse. If I used the chamber pot at night, then the next morning, it was my obligation to carry the sloshing pot outside and dump the mess into the outhouse hole.

I stood motionless against the hallway wall. A tense air hovered over my parents’ conversation. Mother’s voice wavered between a whisper and a piercing plea.

Do you have to accept? Do you have a choice? Oh, dear me! Dakota Territory? It’s full of savages. It’s not like you haven’t already done your service.

I peered around the corner for a split second. Mother was sitting with her back to me, and Dad was in the seat to her right. They leaned into each other from their padded cherry wood armchairs, polished slick with oil. Dad reached over and gently took Mother’s fragile hand. His thick, tan forearm rested on the tabletop. Beside him, Mother wore a perfectly starched yellow silk dress with sleeves of taffeta lace. Femininity bubbled from her fashionably pale skin and her blonde locks, tightly controlled in a sleek bun at the nape of her neck.

For goodness’ sake, Samuel. Didn’t you suffer enough at Gettysburg? Mother asked with a cutting tone.

I know it was hard on you. It was hard on all of us. Even so, darling, ‘orders’ are called ‘orders’ for a reason. I don’t have a choice when duty calls, Dad answered gently, rubbing his clean-shaven face. We are supposed to feel honored by my selection. Too many settlers are being attacked. Positions need to be filled at Fort Randall, and the Indians need to be rounded up and placed on reservations. It could be a lot worse. Fort Randall is supposed to be nice as forts go…right on the Missouri River.

Mother started to weep. What’s so special about Fort Randall? Why not an assignment more civilized? In Washington or something. Maybe President Grant needs a guard. Anywhere but Dakota Territory!

President Grant has plenty of guards. Fort Randall is a different story. They’ve lost quite a few soldiers.

Killed? By savages? Mother blurted.

No, darling. They are deserting. Not sure why—maybe to seek their gold fortunes in the Black Hills now that the army quit arresting them for trespass. Maybe they are just tired of waiting for action at the fort. Men need purpose, and when they wait day after day for a battle, but no battle comes, then some men can’t take it anymore. They desert. Fort Randall needs more men to keep peace between Indians and settlers. Darling, I swore to follow orders when I took my commission. I vowed loyalty to the United States. You didn’t. You should stay here, if you have any hesitation. Your mother is aging. Just stay, and take care of her and Sara, until I return.

Mother didn’t say a word for quite some time, and then I heard her chair squeak as it always did when she leaned to the edge of her pastel brocade-patterned seat. She took a deep breath, yet her voice still cracked. Well, I gave you vows of loyalty sixteen years ago. We will go with you. I am more afraid of life alone here than a life with you amidst savages. We will go.

I wanted to blurt out questions from my hiding place around the hallway corner. Whenever my parents talked quietly at the cleared dining table, an alarm went off in my head, and I could not resist the temptation to eavesdrop, though I was fully aware of the implied disrespect. Since my parents rarely discussed anything sensitive in my presence, how else could an only child learn what was going on? I weighed the consequences of walking past my parents to use the privy, and I chose to quietly sneak back to bed. I could wait until morning or at least until they finished their discussion and determined my fate.

I couldn’t sleep, no matter how hard I tried. Images of Dakota Territory flooded my thoughts. For the last year at Hunter Female High School, I had studied the political turmoil brewing between the settlers who pushed west and the Indians who stood in the way. Our headmaster allowed me to dig deeper into the conflict. My teachers did not go into much detail about settlers’ conflicts with the Indians. They were either oblivious to the realities or were trying to shelter the students from horror stories, some of which I pieced together from articles in The Times.

My school only tested on the most basic facts, such as:

Question: What year did Congress create Dakota Territory?

Answer: 1861.

Question: What is the capital of Dakota Territory?

Answer: Yankton.

Question: What treaty had a big impact on the boundary lines of Dakota Territory?

Answer: The 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie.

Final Question (answer in essay form): What has recently happened in the Black Hills, and how does it affect settlers? Answer: In 1874, General Custer discovered gold in the Black Hills. Before the discovery, Western Dakota Territory was considered worthless and uncivilized with only the Indians willing to live through the extremely cold winters and sweltering summers. Now white settlers flood into the land that the Fort Laramie Treaty granted to the Sioux. Our soldiers are trying to keep them back but greed is persistent.

I was finally getting sleepy and pulled my blanket up under my chin. I wondered if Miss Bee, our housekeeper, had overheard my parents, since her bedroom was on the other side of the kitchen. Miss Bee was twenty-five years old and worked long hours for what she considered reasonable pay. Born into slavery, she gained her freedom after the Civil War. Miss Bee and her sister moved to New York City for a better life. The city was not kind toward freed slaves, especially when they were unmarried young women.

Miss Bee did not offer many details about their life after arriving in the city. She said that they did what they had to do after losing their jobs in a sweatshop. One day, when we were alone in the house, she explained how another ex-slave collapsed on the factory floor from heat stroke. Miss Bee and her sister stopped working and tried to drag the woman from the sweltering factory air. Blocking the door, the manager screamed, You’re all fired! Then Miss Bee’s sister turned and yelled, You can’t fire a dead woman! The man looked down at the woman’s still body with disgust, stepped aside, and then slammed the factory door behind them. Miss Bee’s sister took a bad job after that incident, and one night she never came back to where they slept in a shantytown at the edge of the Hudson River. Miss Bee said her sister had probably been murdered because she would never just up and leave like that.

I met Miss Bee on a rainy spring morning when I was eleven or twelve. Dad and I woke up before dawn, for one of our occasional early morning adventures to the market. Pelting rain had slammed against my bedroom window throughout the night but subsided into a light drizzle by the time we left our house. As fate would have it, we took a different route to the market, along a narrow street. Dad and I walked side-by-side, with my arm through his, under a large umbrella, adjusting our strides awkwardly to dodge deep puddles. Water ran off the edge of the umbrella, and if I wasn’t tight against Dad’s arm, it soaked my neck, sending chills down my spine. Our eyes simultaneously glanced to the opposite side of the street, where Miss Bee crouched in the shadows of a vacant building. She was wedged against a door that barely remained attached to its hinges and returned our gazes with an emotionless blank stare.

Well, well, what a sight, Dad said. He paused, placed the handle of the umbrella in my hand, and told me to wait. He walked across the street, and, at a respectable distance, he engaged the dark figure in a short conversation. Dad helped her to her feet and picked up her bag. With her left foot twisted stiffly to the side, she followed, limping a few paces behind, until they crossed back over the street and reached me. Dad gestured for her to stand at his side, under the umbrella.

Miss Bee, I’d like you to meet my daughter, Sara. Sara, this is Miss Bee. She has agreed to be our housekeeper. Miss Bee dropped her eyes and tucked her chin inside her shirt collar. Then Dad said, Miss Bee, we’ll have none of that. Do you understand? You are not a slave, you’re hired help, and I want you to act like family.

Miss Bee did not wipe away the single tear that gently ran down her face. She just whispered, Thank you.

It’s our pleasure, Dad replied.

As if her thanks were inadequate for the dignity within her, Miss Bee continued, "I will repay you."

No need. We all need a little help now and then. Just pass it on someday, Dad answered.

When we stepped inside our house, Miss Bee humbly removed her soggy worn shoes and tucked them in the corner of the foyer. Clumped chunks of wet newspaper dropped from the bottoms of her stockings. I glanced at her shoes, neatly arranged, and saw the marble floor through her soles. Her left shoe was the most worn, with an extra hole through the side, probably damaged from dragging her crippled leg.

Mother must have watched us approach from a window because she dramatically entered the foyer, with her arms crossed in front of her. The three of us, soaked to the bone, stared back at her with uncertainty. Mother gazed down at the wet wads of newspaper on the floor and raised her beady eyes to study Miss Bee.

Where are the fresh buns? she asked.

We found Miss Bee in the rain, and she’s quite chilled. She’ll stay until she chooses to leave. I’ll head out for your buns in a bit, Dad answered.

Since Mother showed no hospitality, Dad and I led Miss Bee to the servant quarters behind the kitchen. We had used this room to stash things that cluttered our home. Mother claimed the items had sentimental value, but in reality, she was a hoarder. I haphazardly cleaned off the single bed and placed all of the knickknacks under the iron bedframe. I tried to fluff up the comforter.

Will this be okay for you? I asked.

I sleep on the floor.

But we have this extra bed going to waste. It is for you, Dad said.

He told her to settle in and rest since she had probably been up all night—and the night before, and the night before. Dad told me to stay at the house in case Miss Bee woke up while he was at the market. She didn’t. While Dad was gone, I overheard Mother complaining to Grandmother that Dad had no right to bring a crippled slave into our home without her permission. I could not tell which irritated her more, the color of Miss Bee’s skin or the way she dragged her left leg. Grandmother seemed more open to the thought of extra hands in the kitchen.

When Dad returned a few hours later, he carried Mother’s fresh buns, a new pair of shoes, and a shiny ebony cane with a deep purple, detailed handle. He brought the cane into the study, where I was completing a math assignment and I admired the workmanship.

May I speak with you for a moment? Mother asked from the doorway.

Of course, Dad replied.

No, in private.

Dad glanced back at me as he followed her into their bedroom. The door shut. I continued to sit at the desk in the study and heard the whole conversation through the wall.

I demand she only stay until tomorrow morning. Look at how you already spoil her. New shoes? A beautiful cane? Honestly, what are you thinking? She’s nothing more than a crippled slave! Mother blurted.

Now, now. You need to get off your high horse. Miss Bee isn’t a slave. Don’t forget, we won the war. Sara could use a friend in this house and you could use help. It’s the Christian thing to do. Show a touch of empathy, will you? At least muster up a little sympathy. She needs a job—a safe job, Dad reasoned.

Mother was quiet before insisting that I not mingle with Miss Bee outside of our household. It’s just not proper, she repeated over and over. Dad spoke gently with Mother, dampening her anxiety. Dad picked

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