ESCAPE TO JUSTICE AND LOVE BY LARRY LEE JORGENSON
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ABOUT THE BOOK
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Escape to Justice and Love, a white girl, unfettered in her determination to seek justice for a Native American victimized by hate and prejudice, fights for his liberty and for his right to live free in modern-day “Indian Country”. Mystery and suspense engulf the girl’s efforts, but her evolving love for him, and his coming to a place of believing it was acceptable for him to love a white girl, enable the nature of his character to boldly fight the justice system. The rough road ahead is pitted with cultural and racial challenges, but they navigate a shared path of commitment to each other and to a dream of serving others following their Escape to Justice and Love.
Read The Prologue
Excerpt From Escape To Justice and Love
In 1970, on a chilly, clear night in October, not long after the muddy waters of the Missouri River wiped out the island on which she had lived, Charlie Red Tail’s grandmother, Yellow Bird, walked above the reservoir created by the dam and stopped on a hill overlooking what had been her former residence.
A full moon shone overhead and the guiding stars were bright. She could see where the island had been, as it had been straight down from the draw full of fruits and nuts like she had gathered in many an autumn, and where she now stood in sadness. Her thoughts were filled with grief and vengeance. She cried out, “How can they take the land long belonging to our people? The land in and along the river was blessed with the ‘three sisters’-squash, corn and beans—and with herbs, fruits, other sources of food, and materials for medicine. The brush and trees were home to many birds. It was an important winter stop for the birds. We hunted game for food. The island in the river was where I first lay in the tall grass with the young brave I loved. He became the powerful voice of my people during many years of peaceful existence. It was an island that provided joys and challenges with the gifts of the wind, soil and the water. It was where my daughter died in childbirth while delivering a son on the soft leaves of the island fallen under the tall cottonwood tree as she lay on the colorful blanket I weaved over time. It is where my grandson wandered free and upright as one with Mother Earth and with our people.”
Grandmother Yellow Bird lifted her hands to Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit: “I am old and will no longer live the life the Great Spirit has provided me and my people, but what of the little children and my grandson. Will my grandson be strong, and will he lead our people in revenging this terrible war of water? Will he lead us in war against the white man for this crime?”
Then, as she sat on the hill above the gulch under the cold, clear moonlit sky, it was as if the heavens opened up and the moon moved aside. She gazed in awe as a large, dark cloud suddenly appeared out of nowhere and moved from the north to the east, passing above her and then disappearing in the eastern horizon. Wakan Tanka caused a grizzly bear to roar. Black and red clouds rose above her as she sat on the hill above the former island. After a few minutes of wonder, Grandmother put her hands to her eyes, not knowing what was to happen, but all the while knowing Wakan Tanka was talking to her.
Then—something did happen. A Bald Eagle suddenly appeared in the sky, changing colors as it circled low above her. Yellow Bird was not afraid. She knew the eagle is the strongest and bravest of all birds. It symbolizes what is highest, bravest, strongest, and holiest. She stood up with her arms outstretched to the sky and silently understood she was to seek revenge for the wrong that had been done to her people when they took her tribe’s lands on which to build a dam on the Missouri River. Grandmother Yellow Bird knew to whom she must give the honor and duty of seeking revenge. Her “vision” was clear.
As she trudged home on this night, Yellow Bird vowed she would tell Grandson Charlie, when the time was right, of the vision given to her by Wakan Tanka. Grandmother knew her grandson was the right one (the chosen one) to bring justice to her people, now the hope-seekers of the barren hills above and beyond the waters, people denied a better opportunity to provide their own sustenance and continue their empowering culture, long developed as they lived along the river bottom, and for her, on an island in the river.
Historically, the Lakota were considered warriors—strong, brave, and feared. Charlie was a Lakota, an enrolled member of the Ogla’la tribe; his paternal great-great grandfather, Many Fast Horses, led his people during times of harsh living with foresight and bravery, raiding other tribes when they invaded the Ogla’la’s lands, moving into other tribes’ territories when they had greater numbers of Buffalo roaming the land and his people were in need of food. Many Fast Horses was a beloved leader.
Charlie’s paternal grandfather, Brave Elk, followed in his father’s footsteps and became chief of the tribe when the reservations were imposed on the Lakota, for the great plains had been stolen by the white man’s government and the reservation system stole the Indian way of life and their freedoms. Yellow Bird told Charlie of Chief Brave Elk becoming saddened as the numbers of his people rapidly declined; disease and addiction were crushing the spirit; hope for a better life became contingent on white man’s edicts and the white man’s handouts of food and clothing. His life ended by his own hand, not in the glory of a fallen warrior on the battlefield.
Grandmother Yellow Bird was Charlie’s closest family. She gave him his sense of being, for Charlie never knew his father, killed with Charlie’s mother in a car wreck when Charlie was just a year old.
Grandmother told Charlie, when he was old enough to understand: “Your father was a great man. He had a good job in the white man’s world as a truck driver. Your father was Lester Red Tail. He met and married a white woman. Your mother’s name was Anna. Lester and Anna had just one child. That child is you. Me and the tribe have raised you since you were a baby.”
Yellow Bird taught Charlie, “family is the true measure of wealth.” And, through his years of adolescence, Charlie learned of his culture and its values from her and other family members, including his uncles, Ted Tomahawk and Oscar Red Bull.
Charlie had lived through continuing efforts of the white man’s government to separate the tribe’s family units by placement of children in “Indian Boarding Schools” off the reservation where they cut boys’ hair, forbade speaking the native language and wearing Indian clothes, demanding assimilation into the white culture and abandonment of their own. Eventually, for many of Charlie’s friends, capitulation to the white man’s dictates replaced resentment. Lakota children, who had one foot of heritage in each world, but total acceptance in neither, sometimes quietly, but woefully, accepted a passive existence in the white man’s world. There were exceptions. Charlie and Tom Big Horse were two friends who accepted the life challenges ahead, not a muted existence in the white man’s world. Tom and Charlie graduated from Crazy Horse High School on the reservation with high grades, many skills, and a real sense of excitement about the future. They had each managed to eventually escape the experiences of forced attendance in an Indian School. Both intended to go to college and attain success in the white man’s world.
As graduation from Crazy Horse High School approached, Charlie Red Tail told his grandmother: “Grandmother, you have told me many times about our homelands being wrongfully taken so the federal government could build dams on the Missouri River. You told me stories of the meetings you and my uncles had attended with the US Government’s Corps of Engineers. You said they were dog and pony shows. Where no one listened to you. You were very angry and bitter toward the white men for condemning our lands.
“You have told me many times of the Great Spirit’s vision requiring someone to seek retribution for the government’s flooding our lands. Yesterday you told me I was the chosen one. I will heed the Great Spirit’s calling,” the grandson pledged to his grandmother as she lay dying, and the assurance he gave her impacted his life thereafter.
As a survivor of the earth’s rape and of society’s injustice, he with the name of the hawk searched for answers in his life and for several years came up empty. After his grandmother’s death, each day he lifted his hands to the sky and prayed to Wakan Tanka for wisdom and to have taken away the bitterness in his heart stirring there for so many years. Charlie wanted to believe the “Great Spirit” would answer him, as it had when the steel door finally swung open and he walked free of false accusations of white men.
On July 4th, 1985, twenty-four-year-old Charlie Red Tail stood at the foot of the earthen dam on the life-giving river and cried. He did not want to see the other side. He dug until he was finished and carefully put back the disturbed, black dirt. Black earth stands for death and a black stone for revenge, according to his learning. He placed the black obsidian stone on the black dirt at the foot of the dam.
Charlie flinched as he remembered as a child in the 1970s when the monsters came and ate the fertile ground that belonged to his people. He could still smell and see in his memory the black plague the invading monsters belched into the air that his people had to breathe.
Then, his mind’s eye revisited for a moment the treed island on which he took a deer each year to feed his family. He tasted again the buffalo berries and wild plums on the giving bushes, now inundated with water and long dead. He could taste again the morel mushrooms gathered each spring. He recalled the poem he had composed as he stood in reverence of the flowing waters, braided by years of uncontrolled journey toward another great river. He envisioned once more the inlet where the catfish tested his young warrior learning of how to catch the big fish.
He remembered, but could not now see, the tall cottonwood on the island where the Red-
tailed Hawk sat as it accompanied him on his wanderings. And taught him how to attack prey.
The hawk, his elders had taught him, stands for swiftness.
As he now stood at the dam, forlorn and looking to the Great Spirit, Charlie Red Tail also recalled the injustice done to him in the racist white man’s court system when he was sentenced to four years in white man’s prison for the crime of rape, a crime he did not commit. He was convicted on the false testimony and lies of a ranching family who lived near the reservation.
His emotions were in turmoil as to which wrong he should revenge first—the building of the dam and its flooding of his tribe’s lands, or the lies that put him behind the steel door.
Revenge for either grievance was challenging this normally kind and compassionate Indian to accomplish one or the other, or both. And, Charlie had no idea what revenge should look like, or how it should be brought about; his true, peace-loving character seemed to hamper considered thought of the answers he needed.
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