I was girl, half of Cherokee blood and half of English blood. I was born in the city of London, only to travel to America at age 7, after my father died. My mother wished to return to her people. My brother, Mingo, was attending Oxford when we left, and our parting was very brief and for me, very painful. You see, I thought the world of my brother, and he of me. He had been the person I would go to when I was sad, or angry, or bored, and he always welcomed my company. My father had been rather distant, being a business man of high stature, and my mother just didn't understand me the way Mingo did. The one thing she insisted upon was my learning the Cherokee language. She had taught my brother when he was young, so, often, we spoke to each other in the language of her people.
The day we were set to leave for America, Mingo met us at the docks. I ran to him and locked my arms around his legs, simply refusing to let go. He chuckled warmly, detached himself from my grip, and knelt in front of me. "Now, Kehana," he said quietly, "you mustn't do this. This will not be the last time we meet. I promise you. I must finish school, and you must do some more growing. When these things are completed, we will meet again."
"But, Mingo..." I whined.
He smiled and tapped my nose with his finger. "It will seem like no time, Little One. Donadagohvi," he told me in Cherokee. This meant goodbye.
"Donadagohvi, brother," I replied, reluctantly allowing my mother to take hold of my hand again. They said their farewells, and then we boarded the ship. Mingo remained on the dock, waving. I hastily climbed up onto the railings on deck. I waved back, fighting the tears that had risen inside.
I stayed on the rails until I could no longer make out my brother's figure ashore. Then, I settled in for the long journey.
My mother died when I was 10 years old, leaving me in the care of a relative. I felt no real connection with them, and dreamed of the day when my brother would return to me. However, in my 12th year, the chief of our tribe, Manahe, witnessed me protecting some of the children of the tribe by fighting off a white thief. When it was over, he asked me to shoot a bow at a target, and throw my knife at the same target. I did very well. About a week went by, and suddenly, Manahe named me Warrior Maiden of the Cherokee. I was treated as any brave would be, and I was expected to perform the same duties. Protect the tribe, go on hunting parties, all of it. Although, they kept my duties limited for that time on account of my age. I thought that perhaps this was the growing up Mingo had referred to all those years ago, and I awaited his arrival expectantly.
2 years later
It was two years before my wish was granted. I was 14, and I believed myself quite the adult. I had killed my first bear not a week before, and the effect on my ego still had not worn off. I was going to my lodging when someone said, "Who is that approaching?" Immediately on the defensive as I had been taught, I turned to look.
"It is a man," I said shortly. "And in Indian dress. He is Cherokee, I believe." A group that was closer to where he was entering went to meet him. People seemed quite excited and happy.
"Perhaps we should go and join them," the person said.
It was then that my name reached me from the group. "Kehana! Come and see!" they cried. "It is Mingo! Your brother has returned!"
For a moment, I was frozen to the spot. What was I to do in this situation? Finally, I just decided that I didn't really care what I was supposed to do, or what was expected of me. I let out a yell, dropped my bow, and raced across the ground, my feet flying faster than ever before. The people split apart, leaving a path clear to Mingo. I honestly do not believe I had ever run faster. When I got close, he braced himself for the impact, but he kept his arms open for me. I slammed into him, locking my arms around him much as I had the day I left, though I reached higher than his legs this time. He spun us around, laughing happily.
When he sat me down, I suddenly found myself angry. I pushed him in the chest and cried, "7 years, Mingo? How long does it take for schooling like that to be complete?"
A little shocked, he answered, "I was caught up. I needed money for the passage over, and after school, I didn't have much. I'm sorry."
Everyone was staring at me, waiting for my response. I just shook my head, then jumped back into his arms. "Well, you're here now, brother."
"Oh, yes. I am here now."
Everyone around us cheered. Manahe came over, greeted Mingo, then asked to speak with the both of us. When we were alone, he turned to us. "It brings me happiness to see the two children of Dagonee in the same camp. You both greatly resemble her. Now, Mingo, there are some things we need to discuss about Kehana."
"Yes," Mingo answered. "Like this story I've heard about a Warrior Maiden."
"It is no story. I have named your sister Warrior Maiden of the Cherokee for her bravery shown in battle."
He raised an eyebrow. "Battle?"
"She fought off a hostile pale face, and protected many children by doing so. And, she killed a bear alone four days ago."
Mingo glanced at me, and I simply shrugged. "Well," he said, "it appears I have missed much of Little One's accomplishments. I regret it."
"I'm sure she is just glad you are here, Mingo."
I nodded. "There is still life in me, brother. I may yet have more accomplishments in store."
Manahe smiled. "Good! There is another matter that I wished to speak with you about. Kehana, you are coming of age to marry. Have you given any thought to it?"
I actually paled. "No, Manahe, but I can tell you now, I have no wish to marry yet."
"I have to say that I agree," Mingo came in. "She is too young."
"You have been brought up in the land of the pale faces, Mingo. You are accustomed to their ways. In the ways of the Cherokee, she is nearly perfect age."
"Please, don't make me," I pleaded. "I wish only to stay with my brother."
Manahe sighed. "Then you will. I cannot force you, though I had hoped to have you for my son. I suppose, your brother is now your guardian, and it is up to him to give you away."
"And I do not believe now is a good time," Mingo replied.
"Very well. That is all I wished to say. You may go." Mingo put an arm around my shoulders, and we departed.
After that, we went for a walk on the outskirts of the camp. "Thank you," I told him.
"Oh, I didn't do it for you. I am not ready for you to be married. I have missed too much of your life already. I'm not ready to give you up."
I smiled. "So, tell me. How was school?"
"Quite! And, I don't know that I need to ask, but how are you fitting in with your Indian brethren?"
"Quite well. We were welcomed back with open arms, and they treated us as though Mother had never left. I have been truly raised a Cherokee."
"I think I will join you in that. I have decided to take on the life of a Cherokee."
"What made up your mind?"
"Well, as I traveled through New York City to get out here, I saw how people stared at me darkly and muttered as I went by. Indians are not well thought of."
"And this made you want to be one?"
He chuckled. "I simply wish to defend my heritage."
"Then, as Warrior Maiden of the Cherokee, I shall defend it with you!" I declared. We laughed, and walked on, late into the night.