Osiyo ale ulihelisdi, digusdi!

Pull up your blanket and place a log on the fire. The moon is uwoduhi this night and the stars are bright. Place some tsola in your pipe and relax. It is an osda svnoyi!

Tonight we share stories of Native love for our children. Cherokee, like many Native tribes, celebrate the wisdom of the 7 generations before with awareness of the needs of 7 generations ahead. We do not own this land….we simply borrow it from our children, it is said. Our actions communicate how well we have learned the wisdom of the past….the core values, the truths, the stories….as we build a safe and dynamic environment for the next 7 generations. As youngsters, we listen carefully to the stories of each plant and animal…the whisperings of the elders in the wind….and we watch how others live. These children…the one that lives within….and the one that lives outside of us….are our greatest resource. Seeds that grow future generations. Without our children, where would we be?

Native culture nurtures the seeds of truth in their children and counts them as blessing. The culture creates fertile soil to grow strong, imaginative spirits full of curiosity, courage, wisdom, and hope. Children are recognized as having their own path….their own unique talents to share….to grow and thrive as an important member of the community…and the web of life. Tonight, we celebrate the relationship of parents, grandparents and their children. Tonight, we celebrate love—that total acceptance of who we truly are—and how we live that truth everyday….from the wisdom of ancestors whose lived truth has brought us to this place.

In this challenging world, you never know how powerful a word of encouragement, a bit of attention, a listening ear or just sharing a little time can mean for a child. Let us re-member tonight all those children who are in need of an open heart, a listening ear, a hug, a bit of mentoring or just a little encouragement to begin to heal….and to grow strong. Let us pray that those children find a grandmother….like the one in tonights story….who may make the difference between a child that soars like an eagle and a child who crashes and burns. Re-member the children…..every moment counts!

Handcarved Soapstone Turtle Cherokee Language Love Peace Votive Candle Holder

Handcarved Soapstone Turtle Cherokee Language Love Peace Votive Candle Holder by Soulful Stuff

Our first story is the Cherokee Story of the Snake Uktena Boy
As told originally by Freeman Owle EBCI and retold here

It is a story of love how love helps us to see truth…..

 Long ago, lived a boy and his family. But this boy was no ordinary boy for he loved to go bird hunting every day. Each day, when he returned, he would take all of the birds he had taken that day to his grandmother. Now, this made her very fond of him and she loved him greatly. She enjoyed his visit at the end of the day, and she never wanted for a fresh meal.

In the hearts of the boy’s family stirred jealousy and discontent.  So fiery was their jealousy, that their hearts became closed to any goodness in him. The boy, saddened by this, told his grandmother that it was time for him to go off on his own so as not to bring harm and unrest to the community.  “I will be osda, Grandmother…do not worry. My love is with you and Creator will protect me.”

Before the dawn, the boy prepared for his journey…..quietly and without notice. Ever so quietly, without even taking time to eat breakfast, the boy set out to seek his path. The entire day the boy traveled and explored. When the sun had set low in the sky, the boy headed home with a pair of deer (awi) horns.  These, he took straight to the hothouse. His grandmother was there when he entered and greeted him with much love in her heart. 

“Osiyo, elisi!  Tohitsu?  It is osd to see you…but tonight, I must stay in the hothouse. Please understand.” With that, she took her leave of him and went into the house, and spent the night with the rest of the family.

Long was the night and the grandmother was up at the break of the dawn. Out she went to the hothouse. In the door she looked and found the entire house was filled with a giant Uktena (snake) with horns on its head and two human legs instead of a tail. It spoke to her and told her that it was what was left of her grandson and that she should not worry as he would be fine. He then bid her to leave so that he could leave the hothouse.

Long did it take for him to unwind his coils through the door and by the time he was through the sun had reached the top of the sky. People began to flee and shouted at him. He crawled through the village leaving a serpentine trail behind him and found a deep place in the river and disappeared under the water. Never again was he seen.

The grandmother’s heart ached for her loving grandson.  She wept and wept, grieving his absence! Again the family hardened their hearts with jealousy and became very angry.  “Who is he that you grieve him so!  Pay attention to us!”  The angrier they grew towards their grandmother, the angrier the words became. Finally, they shouted after her with a consuming anger, “GO!  Go then and be with your beloved grandson!”  Sadly, the grandmother turned away from the jealous mob and, following the serpentine trail that her grandson had left to the river, disappeared.

Long after that day a fisherman was fishing near the spot and saw her sitting on a rock in the middle of the river. She looked just as she had the day she had left and had not changed a bit. As he stood looking at her, she noticed him and was quick into the water and was never seen again. The grandmother lives there still with love in her heart for the grandson who cared so deeply for her.   

So often, we become jealous of connections family members make….we covet relationships.  Yet, these relationships are needed to encourage some to complete very difficult tasks in life.  Sometimes, we favor a child realizing the special need for our wisdom and guidance that child may have.  Do not be ashamed to listen to your heart and to where you are called.  Sometimes, who you are is the precise medicine needed.  Do not measure your relationships like pennies in a jar….but rather like water overflowing on the riverbank to nourish the plants.  Each of us has a purpose and a path….listen carefully…and do not be afraid to follow the stirrings of your heart.

The story I tell tonight is one of listening and the responsibility we hold to listen.
It is a simple story of a Grandfather (Dudu) and his grandson, Usdi. 
The original story was told by Bill Martin, Jr. some time ago…but the message seems to speak even today….
Tonight’s story is dedicated especially to Kicking Bear, who shares his wisdom to guide the crow and the beaver….and opens our hearts to know…..and to Lisa, who holds the counting rope on her own tonight. May she know that her dad is still holding her hand in his and watching over the beautiful woman she has become.

Grandfather (Dudu) and his grandson, Usdi.

Grandfather, tell me the story again. 
Tell me who I am.
I have told you many times, Usdi, how you came to be.
But tell me again, Grandfather.
Tell me how my name was given.
You know your name, Usdi, and you know the story by heart.
But it sounds better when you tell it, Grandfather.
Please tell the story again.
I like to hear you say my name.
Then listen carefully, Usdi.
This may be the last time for telling the story.
The counting rope is almost filled with knots.

Usdi sat quietly staring into the fire.
Ever so quietly, he said…
Please, Grandfather, this cannot be the last time.
Promise me.
Grandfather sat quietly staring into the flames as his grandson’s eyes beheld him with much love and intent.
Softly, the Grandfather whispered,
“I cannot promise you anything, Usdi.”
Grandfather leaned back and lit his pipe.
The smoke swirled and danced as it rose.
“I love you, Usdi….very, very much.
That is better than a promise.
Usdi looked deep into his Grandfather’s eyes,
“And I love you, Grandfather.
Please….tell me the story….”
Grandfather breathed in deeply and smiled…
Once there was a boy child….
That was me, wasn’t it, Grandfather?
Yes, Usdi….you were the boy child in this story.
And I was very, very strong, wasn’t I, Grandfather?
No, Usdi….you were not strong at all.
You were little and sick.
We thought you might die.
But you knew I wouldn’t die….right, Grandfather?
Tell me that part again…how you knew I would live….
One day when you were very sick,
And your breath was too weak from crying ,
Two great blue horses came galloping by.
Suddenly, they stopped…turned…and looked right at you…
And you, Usdi…you reached your little arms right up to them.
And what did you say to the people then, Grandfather?
I said, “See how the horses speak to him.  They are his brothers from beyond the dark mountain.  This boy child will not die.  The blue horses have given him strength to live”
And that is when you named me, isn’t it, Grandfather?
Yes, Usdi…we named you Boy Strength-of-Blue-Horses. It is a good, strong name.
All children need strong names to grow strong.
Did I grow strong, Grandfather?
Yes, you grew strong, Usdi…and you are growing stronger every day.

Someday, you will be strong enough to cross over beyond the dark mountains.
You must become so strong that you will want to know what other people are thinking even when you are listening to your own thoughts.
Tell me the last part, Grandfather…please…
You must become so strong, Usdi, that you will stop to think of what happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow as you choose what you want to do today.
Is it hard to be strong like you, Grandfather?
Strong people were not born strong, Usdi.
They become strong by thinking they are strong.
They think of themselves as being strong enough to cross over the dark mountains.
Will I ever cross over the dark mountains, Grandfather?
You have already crossed some of the mountains, Usdi.
The dark mountains have no beginning and no ending.
They are all around us.
We are always crossing over the dark mountains, especially when we are troubled or afraid.
Maybe I will not be strong enough to cross over the dark mountains, Grandfather.
Oh, yes, you will be, Boy Strength of Blue Horses.
Then you must keep telling me the story, Grandfather.
You must never stop telling me the story.
But I must stop telling you the story, Usdi….
When I have tied the last knot on the counting rope.
Now that I have told the story again, I tie another knot.
When the rope is filled with knots, you must begin to tell the story yourself.
Then, you will truly know that you ARE strong.
What name do you call yourself?   Do you know your name…or only what others call you?  Do you know your story?  Do you hear names in side you that do not make you feel strong?  Do you listen to the good names that those you love you share?  Listen to your self-talk.  Guard your thoughts.  Listen….then become the strong and courageous warrior who walks in truth and beauty. Listen to your child…..how do you call them? Give them good names….good words….good memories….so that they may discover all the good within themselves….who they truly are….and re-member……the power of a name…or a word….can change a life.

The third story for the night was an untitled story told by Two Feathers.

One year ago today, on February 15, 2011, my nephew entered into this world. What a joyous occasion! You see, my brother and sister-in-law had a difficult time conceiving. She went through a miscarriage, a tubal pregnancy resulting in surgery, fertility drugs over a period of a few years. After giving up the fertility drugs, she finally got pregnant. The last month of the pregnancy, her blood pressure went up, so she had to stay on bed rest. The day of my nephew’s birth was a day of happiness and relief that Desmond Riley Jones made it into this world and was healthy!

So, this seems a good time to tell the story of my grandfather, Walter Desmond Riley. This is who my nephew is named after.

My Granddaddy was a soft spoken, gentle man. I only heard him say one negative thing in the twenty years I was blessed to have him in my life. His mother had Native ancestry. I have no paper proof of that, but she told him that she did, and back during the time she was living (1880-1930, not the most popular time to be “Indian”), I’m pretty sure she would not have made that up. My Granddaddy was very proud of that ancestry.

On September 3, 1932, my Granddaddy married Gladys Davis. You all know that I refer to her as my Nannie. On December 3, 1936, they had their only child, Mayo Jeannetta Riley, my mom. She was so close to my Granddaddy, and they were so much alike.

On April 4, 1944, my Granddaddy, Desmond, was drafted into the Army to fight in WWII. He fought with the famous “Lightning Division” and participated in the historic Battle of the Bulge in Belgium. On December 26, 1944, he was severely wounded. At that same time, here on the other side of the world in Wynne, Arkansas, my Nannie was upstairs folding clothes. She said all of a sudden, she just had a feeling that something was wrong, and dropped to her knees to pray. It was over a week later that she received the telegram about Granddaddy being wounded

Granddaddy was a colonel’s guard, and while driving a jeep, and 88 mortar shell was shot at them by the Germans. The shell exploded, and my Granddaddy was hit in the face by the shrapnel. After this, the roof of his mouth, the bottom part of his nose, his upper lip, and all but seven of his teeth were gone. All of the bones in his face were compound fractured, including his lower jaw bone, which was broken in five places. When the medics finally picked him up, they kept trying to place him on his back, which would have eventually caused him to strangle on his own blood. He said that he finally had to turn himself onto his stomach and hold on to the bottom of the stretcher. After being taken to a dugout, where he was left for three days, my Granddaddy was taken to a hospital in England. German prisoners were loading the wounded onto a vehicle, and the man carrying the stretcher kept hitting my Granddaddy in the head with his knee. My Granddaddy told me, “If I’d had a gun, I’d a turned around and shot him.” That quote has stuck with me since my Granddaddy said it….that’s the only negative thing I ever heard him say.

Granddaddy was in the hospital in England for about four months. In April of 1945, he was brought by ship to Charleston, South Carolina. He was only there for only a week before he was transported to El Paso, Texas. On the way to El Paso, he stood outside the door of the train he was on and saw the light in his house as the train passed by. He passed right by his house where Nannie and Mama were, and had no way of letting them know that he was in Wynne. After two years of being in the hospital in El Paso, he was allowed to come home for two weeks before having to go to a hospital
in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. He was in this hospital for almost three years. He was operated on over forty times, had numerous skin grafts, and lived completely on a liquid diet for almost five years. When he finally got to come home, he did not look like the same person. For his military service, he was decorated with the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and Good Conduct Medal.

Despite all he went through, my Granddaddy went on to run for County Treasurer, won, and kept the position for 22 years. He retired when I was two years old. He was for sure a family man. My mom and dad built their house next door to Nannie and Granddaddy, and up until the last year of his life, he cooked biscuits and bacon every morning, and brought it to our house for breakfast. He always helped my brother, Richard Riley (also named after Granddaddy) and me make our beds every morning. He loved to keep a big garden, and he was out working in the garden or doing some kind of yard work every day, except Sunday. He grilled for lunch every Sunday, so my Nannie and Mama wouldn’t have to cook.

My Granddaddy, Desmond Riley, was the kindest, most loving, most honorable man I’ve ever known. He walked the Red Road, although he didn’t call it that. It was just who he was. He passed over into the next world on May 31, 1996, the day before my Mama passed. They were buried the same day. My mom had cancer, and my Granddaddy had heart failure. He had been sick for a while, and had told one of his home health nurses months earlier that he was ready to go, but he wasn’t going to put my Mama through that. Even at the end, he still put his family first. That’s the kind of man he was.

That’s the legacy my precious nephew has, being named after such a great man. My brother and I will make sure that he grows up knowing what kind of man his great-grandfather was. I have no doubts that little Desmond will also grow into a great man. He is being watched over by some of the most wonderful people to have ever walked this earth.

I dedicate my story tonight to the memory of my Granddaddy and to my precious nephew. And also to Lisa’s dad, who I know was also a veteran. What happened in my Granddaddy’s life has influenced me in so many ways, and one of those ways is that I have so much love and respect for those who fight for our country. I know that tonight is about the children….but without the parents and grandparents, those children would not be here. We are ALL connected!

If you agree with Two Feathers that We Are All Connected, consider purchasing one of stamped bracelets with those words in Lakota.

MITAKUYE OYASIN We Are All Related Lakota Phrase Hand Stamped Metal Cuff Bracelet OOAK

To see this bracelet and more of the work of Desomond Riley’s talented Granddaughter go to:


Many of our members read these stories in “real” time on our team thread but we preserve them here for those who don’t.  Some our members do not sell on Etsy but join our team due to their interest in our culture.  One such member is Sue aka SalemKattand coincidentally when I looked at Sue’s profile she had another of Two Feather’s stamped bracelets in her list of favorites.

PEACE Hand Stamped Metal Cuff Bracelet

Sue, thanks for joining our team and attending Story Hour. 

Thank you Soul and Two Feathers for these beautiful stories.