Long ago before the Comanche had the horse or the gun, winter was
very hard on the people. Deep snows hide the tracks of the animals
and made it hard for the hunters to travel. It was especially hard
when the snows came early.
So it was the winter that the snows came before the leaves had
fallen from the trees. The people did not yet have sufficient stores
laid in, and the elders would only shake their heads when asked
what was to be done. Soon it was apparent that many would not survive
to see the spring.
Every day the hunters would set out in the darkness of the early
morning. And late each evening they would return with empty hands;
half-frozen and exhausted from pushing their way through the ever
deepening snow. Yatenah`te was always the first hunter to leave
and the last to return. Being the youngest and strongest of the
hunters, he pushed himself to go farther and to stay out longer
than anyone else.
At first Yahtenah`te hunted the plains surrounding the camp. Then
he journeyed to the foothills. And finally entered the Wichita Mountains
in his search for game to feed his people. And so it was that he
Yahtenah`te tried to retrace his steps but the wind and snow had
covered his tracks. He tried traveling North, South, East and West
in hopes of finding a landmark that would lead him back to the village.
But no matter which way he went, he remained lost. Days turned to
weeks and weeks into seasons. As the years passed the memory of
his village never left him, and he searched first one valley and
then another in hope of finding the way back.
One day Yahtenah`te sat by a stream looking at his reflection.
His hair had now grown thin and white and his weathered face was
wrinkled with age. As the thought on his life alone, he noticed
to his amazement that the lines and creases on his face matched
the hills and valleys of the mountain. He searched the furrows around
his eyes and saw the summer range of the mule deer.
In the creases
of his chin he saw the steep bluffs of the central range, where
he had lured many bison to their death for food and hides. Then
he noticed a line he did not recognize from the terrain. Wondering
if this was a place he had never seen before, he collected his weapons
and set out.
Early the next morning he reached the mouth of a broad, shallow
ravine that he had never seen before. As he followed it, he could
hear distant voices. And on the wind he was sure he could smell
the smoke of a chef fire. Turning a bend in the ravine he saw his
village in the distance. Painted tepees. Children running and laughing.
Men tending and repairing their weapons. Women preparing food. Hey
knew in his heart that this was his village.
Yahtenah`te paused. He thought of his years alone. Of his journeys
in the mountains. Of how the Fingerprints of the Creator are upon
us all. And how we are each given all the gifts we need in this
life. Raising his arms to the sky, he gave thanks to the Creator.
And returned Home.
This was the Kiowa's story Coming Home.