“I opened my mouth and let out a still note that echoed across the valley. I stopped and heard a wolf let out the same note. I started to sing the stories our ancestral people told us about the wolves, as the elders said. I sang songs of wishing for peace and forever bonding with the magnificent creatures.”
I trekked through the damp forest, which had been washed recently from the rain during day. The night air felt damp against my skin. My moccasins made no sound as I walked on the soggy grass. I was quiet, trying not to disturb the newborn fawns and the deer who were sleeping. The wind brushed lightly against the trees, making them move and rock like a crib. The sound of water became louder, which made me know I was going in the right direction.
I finally made it to the clearing of my favorite spot. I sat down on a log as I watched the waterfall blend in with the moon, making the water look like stars coming out of the moon. The creek rushed the stars to a place I don’t know. I sighed, looking at the marvelous picture that was set before me. I love it here. Peace and quiet. It was a full moon, and the moon seemed bigger and brighter here than any other part of the land. It made me feel like I could touch it, even though it was impossible. The rushing of the water soothed my troubles and the view erased all of my thoughts. I sighed as I listened to the water splashing and closed my eyes. I knew that someday I wouldn’t be able to listen to this sound anymore. Something told me that there would be a time when I wouldn’t be able to sing in harmony with the water and the wolves at this place.
The wolves where our tribe is are named the Wolf Clan. I opened my mouth and let out a still note that echoed across the valley. I stopped and heard a wolf let out the same note. I started to sing the stories our ancestral people told us about the wolves, as the elders said. I sang songs of wishing for peace and forever bonding with the magnificent creatures. The wolf accompanied me as we sang a duet that no other Cherokee people can sing. A song so full of harmony that it seemed to be a single language. When we ended, I heard something run on the soggy grass. I turned around and saw a wolf, a young pup. Its eyes were like the moon, glistening and shining. It came close to me and sniffed my hand when I reached out. I walked in circles and it followed me.
“You should be my pet wolf. I will name you Usgiyi, which means ‘Snow Moon.’ You like the ancient songs, and while it is the snow moon, the elders tell stories in the village,” I said. Usgiyi gave a playful yip and I rubbed its silver fur.
“My name is Tala, and you will be my companion forever,” I whispered. Usgiyi rubbed its face in my arm.
I was lying in my teepee, listening to the breathing of my sister, who was asleep next to me. I crept from the blanket and pulled on my moccasins. I opened the flap of the teepee slowly, and then crept outside. I almost tripped over my grandmother Tala’s old moccasins. I put them back where they were supposed to be and continued to go out. My moccasins thumped loudly against the dry dirt ground. I ran around the neighbors’ gardens and their huge wagons that they used from the marching, and bumped into a few rocks. I reached the huge lake a little bit away from the camp. I was sweating from the run and the warm, humid air stuck to my arm like flies. I breathed in the freshness of the lake and saw the moon’s reflection on the lake along with the stars, even though there was no waterfall like great-grandmother Tala had described to my mother. She had told me the stars shone brightly around the moon, like it was saying that the moon was special and important.
The mysterious owls hooted around and fluttered here and there, their feathers falling like the moon’s light dropping to the ground. I heard footsteps and turned around. I saw one of the wolves from our tribe. I sighed in relief and reached my hand out. I rubbed the silver coat and hummed the song my mother always sang, saying that Tala started the song with the wolves. The wolf caught on and we sang quietly, the song of the ancestors. The song that brought peace to the clan and helped us be at peace with the wolves who help us when we are in trouble. I knew it wasn’t as good as Tala’s, but I finally knew what it felt like to bond with a wolf like Tala. A bond I knew would last forever.
“I will name you… Svnoyi. I am Ama. I want you to be my partner forever,” I said, like Tala had said to her wolf. It liked that name. I smiled as I rubbed its soft, warm head against my cold arm. I remembered the stories of the old tribal camp and the march that the whites’ government made us march. I was angry at them. Because of them we had to move to new, filthy land with not many trees. A lot of our tribe, the Cherokee, died from the journey. I remembered the stories the elders told, the stories that Tala knew and named her wolf after. I also remembered what Tala did for the tribe, and I wanted to be like her. To be brave and carry on the tradition of the wolves and our forever bond with them. I gave Svnoyi a necklace I was wearing.
“Here is a necklace I made. I have another one. I will wear it and you will wear yours. This will show our bond. We will work together to save our people, like what Tala did,” I said. Svnoyi nodded and jumped up and down, determined to do that.
I was walking on a frozen path, huddled in a worn, faded jacket, my bracelet jingling from my shivers. I kept scolding myself that I was crazy, being outside in the middle of the night in winter in Alaska, the coldest state, but I kept going. Tonight was a full moon, and I wasn’t going to miss it. It was going to be a beautiful night. The coldness touched my arm, and making it ice cold and giving me goosebumps. The wind flew through the icy bare trees and made a howl against the icicles. Ice crunched under my tight leather shoes, sort of like a moccasin that was way too small for me. I wished that it was warmer, like in Oklahoma where great-grandmother Ama was. I hiked through the woods and finally reached my destination.
I swept away the snow on a stump with my hand, covered by a part of the jacket, before sitting down. I was staring at a river, which froze a few weeks ago. The moon reflected onto the ice, like it was stuck frozen in the river. The stars were twinkling, like they was trying to get out and help the moon to break free from the ice. I breathed, and my breath hung in the air like father’s tobacco smoke. I couldn’t stop myself from going open-eyed at the sight.
I was happy we didn’t have to pay to watch this scene, because our family didn’t have money since the Great Depression. I knew that looking at the moon angled on top of water was a family tradition in my Wolf’s Clan. I remembered stories that my mother used to tell me before she passed away from a disease that my father never told me about. Stories like what my ancestor Tala did when she hiked to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears and what my great-great grandmother Ama did to save the tribe. I remembered that they all had wolves, and they bonded with them. I also remembered that it was Tala who first sang a song full of peace and forever bonding with the wolves who helped us when we were in trouble.
I sang the song, my voice echoing through the icicles. I sang the stories that were passed down by mouth and of the forgotten people who died while protecting our tribe and those who died while we were forcibly moved to Oklahoma. A howl accompanied me and I stopped, surprised. I looked around and saw a wolf. I sang, looking at the wolf. It sang with me and we continued to sing to the end of the song. I felt a huge bond between me and the wolf. It was a warm feeling, a feeling that someone loved and trusted me. It walked up to me and nuzzled its muzzle onto my leg.
“Hey, I am Imookalee,” I whispered.
“I think I will name you Nvda,” I said.
“I want you to be my partner forever,” I said.
I took off my cold bracelet and motioned Nvda to lift it’s paw. I put the bracelet on it’s leg. “This will represent our bond,” I said.
It nodded and I wondered how I was going to feed it. Father didn’t have a job and there are no animals in the winter time. But, I figured that Nvda would figure out on its own.
“I will make one like it and we will wear it always,” I concluded. I touched the glossy silver fur and Nvda gave a happy yap.
I stayed still in my bed. I made sure no one was awake when I crept out of my bed. My ancestor Tala’s moccasins, my other ancestor (a few generations younger) Ama’s necklace, and my great-great-grandmother Immokalee’s bracelet were in their special spot on my desk, glimmering from the moon’s light.
I slowly opened my door, little groans coming from the hinges, and crept down the stairs. I tiptoed across the living room and into the kitchen. I made sure not to rattle the pots and pans on the drying rack. I shoved on my worn-out blue Nike sneakers and opened the back door slowly. I went outside, closed it, and walked to the woods in my backyard. I walked on the trail we made, but swerved to the left around a fourth of it and walked straight ahead. The trees swayed a little from the breeze and the leaves rustled. Fireflies blinked everywhere, making little lights to guide my way through the forest. The wind tickled my arm and my pajama shirt fluttered a little. I finally came upon a waterfall and a creek rushed the water to somewhere else. The moon blended in with the moon in the water, and the water was like stars coming out of the moon and rushing along the creek, like what Tala saw a few centuries ago. I am in the exact place where Tala saw her waterfall and met Usgiyi.
Here is my brief description of my family, Tala, Ama, and Immookalee, and me. I am currently in Tennessee, where the Wolf’s Clan was before. The Wolf Clan was part of a Native American tribe called the Cherokee. Tala lived near the end of the 1700s, around when the European settlers moved west in the United States. A few decades later, in about 1835, they were forced to move to Oklahoma. Ama’s story takes place in Oklahoma, about 20 or more years after the move. Then, Immokalee’s parents moved to Alaska when the Great Depression hit, which was about 1929, by horse and wagon, which took a really long time. All of them were pretty well known in the Cherokee history for their bonding with wolves and what they did with them. Tala and Usgiyi were the most well known out of the three of them, and were very well known for saving the tribe a lot of times. She sang about the stories when the tribe was fighting against the wolves when the wolves were too close to the clan. She sang that it was no use to fight them and that the wolves would help the tribe later. The wolves stayed and they helped the tribe when the ‘evil’ Beaver Clan went into the tribe to take over the land.
The wolves helped and they won the battle by taking the weapons and biting them. Tala also brought the idea of helping animals, which helped the tribe a lot. She gave hope to the Cherokees when they were marching to Oklahoma. She sang the stories and helped the others continue to remember the stories of their ancestors and the myths. Usgiyi had pups, which stayed with the tribe forever. She got the title “Singer of Hope and Peace,” and continued to help the tribe. She had a daughter later on, who later had Ama. Ama loved Tala and she helped the tribe by also bonding with a wolf.
When the white people came, Tala and Ama stood up for the tribe and helped fight, and later they died together. Ama saved the tribe and the wolf helped too, which gave her the title “Warrior of the Wolves.” She had a girl before she died, who had the grandmother of Immokalee. Immokalee’s father moved to Alaska with her mother because he wanted to see the world, but was at the wrong time. He moved to Alaska, hoping to find leftover gold, which he never found.
After bonding, Immokalee stayed in Alaska, had a few kids, and lived with the wolves. She protected them from harm and poachers. She later moved back to the clan, who were still living in the same spot in Oklaholma. She lived there and inspired a few people to protect the land of the Cherokee. She got the title “The Bringer of Justice and Truth.” One of her kids had my great-grandmother. I came later on and here I am, in the 21st century. I feel proud of them, each facing a difficult time with a fellow wolf, who they trusted and stayed loyal to.
I closed my eyes and breathed in the air. I was sad that I couldn’t sing the song. It had gotten lost someplace in history after Immookalee sang the song with her wolf. Someone didn’t sing the song or didn’t pass it down, so no one knows what the exact words were. Not many people remember the stories the ancestors told of the wolves and the tribe, or even knew there was a song about it at all.
Not many people even know the Wolf Clan; only the people whose ancestors were in our tribe. Most are still in the same spot where Ama was about two centuries ago. I was sort of envious of my ancestors. They got to sing the song, but here I am, a descendent of some of the greatest people in Cherokee history, and I don’t even know half the lyrics of the song my ancestors sang.
I opened my eyes and sighed. I knew I had to enjoy the view. There isn’t much chance to see it, since there is school on most of the nights there is a full moon.
I sang the beginning unknowingly, singing the first few lines. Then I forgot the rest, like I usually did when I tried to sing the song. I sighed, annoyed at myself. Then, I heard a faint howling in the rhythm of the song. I followed its lead and we sang, without words, of the song that my ancestors sang. I sang the parts I knew, but sang the notes for the places I didn’t. I heard the song echoing in the woods when we finished our duet. I heard something come behind me and I whirled around, my body in defensive mode. You never can be sure if a person might kidnap you, which is sort of common in the 21st century, but not really in Tennessee.
I relaxed my pose when I saw a wolf pup. It whined and put his head onto my lap. I awkwardly pet its head. I don’t have a pet. Its blue, beady eyes looked at me and it started to howl the song. I realized this was the wolf who sang the song with me.
“You are the one who sang it with me?” I asked the wolf, hoping it knew some English. It nodded and yapped a few times.
“I am Amadahy. Nice to meet you, uh… wolf,” I said. It sighed at the word “wolf.”
“I guess I will have to name you. I will name you Waya,” I said, thinking of my limited Cherokee language. Waya is basically “wolf” in Cherokee, one of the words my mother told me to memorize. It yapped (I am pretty sure it doesn’t know the meaning) happily. I remembered a story of the bonding, and I held out my bandana I was wearing.
“I want you to be my partner forever,” I said.
It nodded and lifted its paw, like it knew what to do. I wrapped the bandana around the leg and knotted it twice, making sure it couldn’t fall off. When I finished, it jumped into my lap and slept soundly. I smiled as I brushed its fur. I knew that I would pass on the rhythm of the song forever and ever and not make a mistake. I also knew that it was my turn to continue the tradition of the ancient song that brought peace and forever bonding to my clan.