By Lynn Willoughby
The Vengence of Mothers: The Journals of Margaret Kelly and Molly McGill
Some time ago I reviewed “One Thousand White Women” by this same author. It is literary fiction based on the story of Little Grey Wolf, head of the Cheyenne Sweet Medicine tribe, and his proposal to President Grant in 1874 – one thousand horses in exchange for one thousand white women. The two agreed, on the premise that fighting between white men and the Indians on the American plains would end. Women from jails, brothels and mental institutions were solicited to become these brides. Mary Dodd kept a journal where she described …”grisly horror, irrepressible joy, stunning beauty…” But we all know it didn’t solve the problem. Land speculators, gold miners, buffalo hunters, cattle ranchers, railway tycoons all wanted the land of the Cheyenne.
This book, set in the 1880s is a follow up and alternates between the journals of Margaret Kelly and her sister Susie, or the journal of Molly McGill – a convicted murderess. Lady Ann Hall also keeps a diary and we occasionally get a glimpse of her impressions on the Brides for Indians program.
When the Cheyenne meet these, and other women, to take them to the village, all is well. But when the village is destroyed by the US soldiers – killing women and children and the elderly, and burning everything, Margaret and Susie have an overwhelming desire for revenge.
These diaries explore and explain the bonds between husbands and wives, the love of a mother for her child, what it means to be considered an embarrassment or blight on white “society”.
Life for the Cheyenne is extremely difficult, especially as winter is approaching. But life on a reservation is not an option – as these people are starving. Why? There are no buffalo and the Agents sell food supplies designated for the residents. They make a tidy profit for themselves.
We see a lot of daily life, the hardship of setting up camp and tearing it down again in the daily trek to safety. I found it a fascinating read, leading up to the battle of the Little Big Horn, but from an original perspective.
- A Hunter’s Road
- The Wild Girl
Crazy Horse stood out among his own people because of his fair complexion and curly brown hair. From his vision quest Crazy Horse saw that he would never be harmed by bullets or arrows in battle, and he never was. He died at age 40 as he was retrained by a soldier and a member of his own tribe as a second soldier drove a bayonet through his kidneys.