Theodora R. Jenness.

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Produced by Prepared by Al Haines.


A Story of an Indian Mission School



It was a Saturday morning in December at the Indian Mission School.
Two young Sioux girls were going up the stairs - Hannah Straight Tree and
Cordelia Running Bird. It was their Saturday for cleaning. The two
girls drew a heavy breath in prospect of the difficult task that
confronted them. The great unplastered mission building was a chilly
place throughout the winter, and the halls and stairway that morning
were drafty from the blustering wind that swept the Dakota plains and
came through the outer doors below, where restless children kept going
to and fro continually. The young hall-girls shivered on the upper
landing, and stepped back in a sheltered niche in which the brooms were
hanging. They had thrown their aprons over their heads and shoulders,
and were dreading to begin their work.

"My floor and stairs always look nicer than your floor and stairs," said
Hannah Straight Tree to Cordelia Running Bird.

"Because you have the teachers' side, and that's always nicer, to begin
with, than the girls' side," answered Cordelia Running Bird. "You know
the teachers never walk whole-feet when you are scrubbing. If they have
to go by, they walk tiptoe, and their toes are sharp and clean and do
not make big tracks. But all the children on my side walk whole-feet
over the wet floor when I am scrubbing, and their shoes are big and
muddy. Ugh! big tracks they make! But I have learned the motto, every
word, and I can speak that when I feel discouraged with my work."
Cordelia Running Bird gazed at the motto, while the dormitory girls
flocked by, and when the hall was quiet she repeated it in the peculiar
monotonous tone with which an Indian pupil usually recites:

"Those who faithfully perform the task of keeping clean the dark places,
the cold places and the rough places, are they to whom it may indeed be
said, 'Well done.'"

"I shall not try to learn the motto, for it makes my memory tired," said
Hannah Straight Tree. "I do not like to think hard or work hard. I am
glad I have the teachers' side."

"If you do not think hard you will have a heart that is a dark place,
like the scrub-pail closet, and it will he hard to keep it clean of
wrong thoughts, like the white mother talked about in Sunday-school.
The motto means inside of us as well as places where we live. I like to
think hard," said Cordelia Running Bird. "I heard the teacher tell the
white mother that I had the best memory of any middle-sized girl, and
she said it was as good as many white girls' memories of my age, and
that is 'most fourteen. So I am to speak the longest middle-sized piece
in the Christmas entertainment."

"Ee!" cried Hannah Straight Tree, "hear her brag because she has a white
memory! If the teacher praised me, I should be ashamed to tell it!"

"She will not praise you, for you are always very dumb in school. You
will not try to speak a lesson only with the class in concert," said
Cordelia Running Bird. "I shall try to finish very fast this morning.
There are only two more Saturdays till Christmas, and to-day I want to
feather-stitch the little new blue dress for Susie. She will wear it
every day when she is here Christmas. Many white and Indian visitors
will be here."

"And you will feel so proud because the visitors and the school will
look at Susie, and the middle-sized and little girls will always choose
her in the games. They would not choose my little sister if she
played," said Hannah Straight Tree, with a sudden downcast look.

"Dolly is so shy I do not know if she would go into the middle of the
ring if they should choose her, and she would not know the way to choose
back," answered Cordelia Running Bird.

"Ee! She would! She would!" disputed Hannah Straight Tree. "Dolly is
as brave and smart as Susie - smarter, too, for she is shorter! She
could play the games if I would let her!"

"But you will not," replied the other; "you must not scold about my
little sister. Susie knows the motions in the Jack Frost song so well
the teachers says that she can motion with the children in the Christmas

"She does not motion right," said Hannah Straight Tree. "She gets
behind, and when they sing:

"'He nips little children on the nose,
He pinches little children on the toes,
He pulls little children by the ears,
And brings to their eyes the big, round tears,'

she is only nipping her nose when the rest are pulling their ears."

"But she is so little she looks cute, and the visitors and school will
laugh at her and praise her," said Cordelia Running Bird, undismayed.
"She will not wear the blue dress in the Jack Frost song. She will wear
a red dress from my mission box. I asked the white mother if I could
not buy the red cloth for an entertainment dress for Susie with the
money that she paid because I tended baby one month till the nurse-girl
came. And she said if I wished I could put a nickel on the missionary
plate twenty Sundays, which would be one dollar, and so buy the cloth.
She said it would be teaching me to give, as well as to receive. She
keeps the nickel with the school pennies, and I take one every Sunday."

"And you lift your hand so high and drop the nickel very too loud, so
all the school can hear, when Amy Swimmer passes you the plate!" cried
Hannah Straight Tree. "Just like it says, 'Ee! I am putting on a
nickel, and the rest can only give one penny! And _I_ earned my money,
and the pennies are money that their people sent them.'"

"You are very jealous," was the calm reply. "I shall hire a large girl
to cut it fine and help make the red dress very fast. The sewing
teacher has not time for such dresses. Ver-r-y pr-r-etty it will look!"
Cordelia Running Bird smiled prospectively, displaying small white teeth
and two round dimples. "Christmas evening I shall curl Susie's hair
with a slate pencil, and she will wear fine shoes, and black stockings
with the red dress. My father brought them with the blue dress, and I
keep them in my cupboard."

"You are much vain because your father is an agency policeman and earns
money, so he buys nice things for Susie," Hannah Straight Tree said,
with growing envy. "Dolly has to wear the issue goods, and she will not
look pretty Christmas time! Her dress will be a kind that looks black,
and Lucinda only knows a way to make it look like an Indian dress. She
will wear cowskin shoes so much too large, and very ugly-colored
stockings. If her dress gets torn before she comes, Lucinda will not
mend it nice - only draw it up so puckery. Very lots of grease spots
will be on it, and her hair will be so snarly I shall have to comb her
very fast."

"My little sister is not torn and dirty any time," said Cordelia Running
Bird, "for my mother came to mission school when she was young and
learned the neat way."

"My big sister only went to camp school just a little while," said
Hannah Straight Tree. "When my mother died she had to stay at home and
work and keep my little sister. Now again my father has got married,
and Lucinda wants to come to school and bring my little sister. Dolly
was five birthdays last Thanksgiving dinner."

"Susie was five birthdays while I was at home vacation. I would be so
glad if she could stay at school next time she comes, but she was
sliding on the ice, and she fell and broke herself right here."
Cordelia touched her collarbone. "She is mended, but my mother is
afraid to leave her with the children now," she added. "But next year
she will leave her. If your big and little sister come to school they
will have nice mission things."

"But they cannot for my father," Hannah Straight Tree said, with
deepening gloom. "He would let Lucinda, but he says Dolly is too short;
she must be ten birthdays when she comes. Lucinda loves Dolly, so she
will not leave her, and my stepmother is cross-tempered. Lucinda will
be twenty-one birthdays - much too old to come to school - when Dolly is
ten birthdays."

"You can tell your father the teachers like the Indian children come to
school when they are very short, so they can grow them more
white-minded," said Cordelia Running Bird.

"I told him, but he says he does not want his children very
white-minded. He says I came to school so short that they have grown me
too white-minded. I tell him I am very Indian-minded, but he tells me I
do not know white from Indian. Lucinda is so sad she will not try. She
looks so horrid - Dolly, too - I am much ashamed of them. I shall not
speak to them before the white visitors and the teachers - only down at

"Then you will be very wrong," said Cordelia Running Bird. "I would not
be ashamed to speak to my own people anywhere."

"Ee! You talk so good because your father wears a grand policeman's
coat and trousers, and your mother's head is in a hood!" said Hannah
Straight Tree, excitedly. "My father wears a very funny Indian clothes,
and feathers in his hairs, and my big sister's head is in a shawl. All
the girls will say on Christmas, 'Susie looked just like a fairy in the
Jack Frost song. We shall give her very lots of candy from our
Christmas bags.' Dolly knows the Jack Frost motions; I taught her, and
she did them with the children down at camp. But I shall not tell the
teacher, for Dolly has no pretty things to wear. That is why I won't
let her play the games. If my father saw her in the Jack Frost songs
and games, he would be glad she is so smart and just like he would let
her come to school. But you would be so sorry if my big and little
sister came to school. You think Susie is a skin-white girl and Dolly
is a very copper-colored Indian."

"You do not speak true," was the denial. "I should not be sorry, and I
do not think Susie is a skin-white girl. She is very copper-colored,

"But you do not wish Dolly would be in the Jack Frost song and wear a
red dress just like Susie's!" challenged Hannah Straight Tree,
disconcerting her companion with the piercing gaze habitual to her race.

Though not quite innocent of all the charges laid to her, Cordelia
Running Bird was a truthful girl, and she would not disown a failing
plainly set before her by another. She evaded her companion's gaze in

"You are thinking hard! You cannot say it!" was the fierce indictment
from Hannah Straight Tree.

"But - I wish she could be in another motion song - and wear a - green
dress," came the hesitating answer.

"Ee! You think they would not watch Susie all the time if Dolly
motioned Jack Frost, too, and looked like Susie! And you do not wish
that Dolly had a blue dress - only ugly green - and looked like Susie in
the games," said Hannah Straight Tree.

"But little white girls do not need to wear alike dresses," was Cordelia
Running Bird's argument. "Because the little white visitor last summer
looked just like a fairy in the pretty pink with white lace, did her
sister have to wish another little white girl looked the very too same?"
she asked.

"There is a difference, but I cannot tell," answered Hannah Straight
Tree, taking down her broom in puzzled moodiness.

The two girls went about their work in a most unfortunate state of mind.
Hannah's discontent at Dolly's lack and Susie's plenty, and the prospect
of Cordelia's triumphs through the petted little sister, grew upon her,
and resulted in unlooked-for trials to Cordelia, who was much
discomfited by the force of her companion's criticisms.

Cordelia Running Bird was a bright, attractive girl, quite conscientious
in discharging her industrial and school duties, and much interested in
the Sunday-school; but in a private talk the very day before, the
teachers had referred to her in some perplexity.

"I wish Cordelia Running Bird were a little different," said the
school-teacher. "She leads her class, and is a credit to the school in
most respects, but she is rather too ambitious to outdo others. It
creates jealousy."

"I have observed that she is notional in the making of her dresses,"
said the sewing teacher. "She is apt to want the skirt a little wider
and the hem a half-inch deeper than the regular uniform. And she asks
to have more buttonholes, which means more buttons, and an extra ruffle
on the waist. But she begs me so politely and appears so thankful, if I
grant these trifling favors, that I find myself indulging her too
frequently. She does the extra work herself, cheerfully and neatly, if
not speedily, but closely watched by others. She has learned as if by
intuition that variety is the spice of life, but she seems unconscious
of the fact that she makes the other girls discontented. But she is so
pleasant and obedient, as a rule, that minor faults may be forgiven
her," the white mother charitably concluded.


As something quite unusual at that season in the Dakotas, there had been
a thaw the day before, and a great quantity of mud had been tracked in
on the girls' side by the sewing classes coming from the schoolhouse,
separate from the main mission building, to the upstairs room in which
the sewing work was done.

Hannah Straight Tree quickly swept her portion of the hall, for there
was but little mud on the teachers' side, and was proceeding to her
stairs before Cordelia Running Bird was half way along her floor.

"You have not taken up your dirt! You have swept it over on my side!"
exclaimed Cordelia Running Bird, who, with all her close attention to
her own work, kept a sharp eye on the other's movements.

"There is little, and it will not be much work to take it up with
yours," was Hannah's reply. "When we finished yesterday I lent our
dustpan to the middle dormitory girls - they said theirs was too broken
- and they lost it. Now they say they can borrow the south dormitory
dustpan, and they shall not hunt ours. You can always find things better
than I can, so you must hunt it and take up my dirt," was Hannah
Straight Tree's demand.

"Tokee! How strange you talk!" exclaimed Cordelia Running Bird, in
amazement. "The dormitory girls must ask for a new dustpan if they
break theirs. It is not the rule to lend things, for it makes
confusion; if you lent the dustpan you must find it and take up your
dirt, for I have more to do than you. It is Number 8, and you can tell
it when you see it."

"You are very cross as well as proud and vain - and you have learned the
motto, every word. If I had learned the motto I should try to be good,"
said Hannah Straight Tree.

"The motto does not say a girl can tell us we must do a work that is not
ours, and we must mind her. I shall sweep your dirt back," was the warm

Cordelia Running Bird gave her broom a sudden push and sent the
sweepings flying backward in a cloud.

"Now look how mean you are! Again I have to sweep my floor!" cried
Hannah Straight Tree, angrily. "Proud - vain - cross - mean!" She
counted the four failings on her fingers.

"Not the least bit do I care," replied Cordelia Running Bird, stung
beyond endurance by Hannah's taunts. "I was not cross at first, but now
I am, because you call me four bad names. I am now glad your little
sister cannot play the games, or motion in one song, or even have an
ugly green dress. I am not sorry that your big and little sister cannot
come to school, and very much I wish I had not learned the motto."

Here the young Sioux girl, who was compelled to battle with hereditary
pride and stubbornness in every effort to do right, forgot the white
mother's admonition that the heart might be a dark place and a cold
place needing to be cleansed of evil thoughts.

Hannah Straight Tree did not hunt the dustpan, but with perseverance
worthy of a better cause, she brushed the sweepings from her floor and
stairs upon a ragged palm-leaf fan which she discovered in a corner,
and, dropping them into the scrub-pail, took them out of doors. Cordelia
brought a shoe-box from her cupboard in the playroom and applied it as
an inconvenient dustpan. Meanwhile dustpan Number 8 remained in the
darkest corner of the middle dormitory closet, where it had been pushed
in the rush of clearing up the day before.

Cordelia Running Bird's work of making clean her floor and stairs was
even harder than she had expected. Never had there seemed so many
errands to and fro by those who did the weekly cleaning in the three
dormitories, numbering quite a force. The thaw had ended in a freezing
snow squall in the night, but a sufficient quantity of mud was clinging
to the broad soles of the government shoes that tramped across
Cordelia's wet floor to insure a startling trail of footprints.

"I cannot keep them up, they come again so fast," she murmured to
herself in grim despair, while wringing out her mop-rag to attack a line
of tracks imprinted by the largest girl in school, in going to and from
the laundry to dispose of laid-off sheets and pillow-cases. "_Ver-ry
hor-r-i-d_ pictures of the ugly issue shoes. I will not wear them. I
am wearing kid store shoes my father buys for every day. The dormitory
girls are shovel-feeted, and I Wish they could not walk one step - only
lie in bed!"

She was overheard by Hannah Straight Tree, coming up the girls' stairs
at that moment. Hannah's own work had been done with little difficulty,
and she had obtained permission to help the middle dormitory girls, for
reasons all her own.

The reckless speech was repeated to the dormitory girls by Hannah
Straight Tree, much to their displeasure.

"The dormitory girls are shovel-feeted, and she wishes they could not
walk one step, only lie in bed!" exclaimed the largest girl, sitting
down on a straw-tick to discuss the matter. "Then we should be
cripples, and, tokee! how many cripples there would be!"

"If they came from both the other dormitories into this to lie down with
the middle dormitory girls, there would be one cripple in each bed, and
in one there would be two cripples," said a broom girl, who was quite
expert at figures, having studied on the problem with the aid of
broom-straws representing cripples.

This portrayal of the startling situation, if Cordelia Running Bird's
wish could be fulfilled, increased the shock of indignation in the

"Ee!" cried one, "we hate the ugly government shoes, of course, and wish
that we could wear the nice shoes from our mission boxes every day. But
we cannot, only Sundays - and we have to change them after Sunday-school
- and when we wear our best clothes for white visitors. Cordelia Running
Bird will not wear the government shoes because her father is an agency
policeman, and can buy store shoes for every day."

"I was always much ashamed of my big feet, and now I am more ashamed,"
complained the largest girl. "If the dormitory girls are shovel-feeted,
every large girl in this school is shovel-feeted."

"Cordelia was very cross about the dustpan, too, but we can pay her
back," said Hannah Straight Tree, adding fresh fuel to the fire.

"Now I shall not show her how to feather-stitch the little blue dress,"
said the largest girl, who was quite famous at embroidery, and had
partly promised to instruct Cordelia Running Bird in her work that day.

"And I shall not help her make the little red dress, as she will be
wanting me next week," resolved a south dormitory bed girl, Emma Two
Bears, who was standing in the doorway. Emma was the most experienced
dressmaker of the large girls' class and was generous, as a rule, in
helping younger girls. "I am sorry now that I cut and made the little
blue waist, but I did not think she would so soon be wishing me a

"And you need not praise the little blue and red dresses if she gets
them done; but I am sure she cannot," gloried Hannah Straight Tree.

"Ee! We will not. We will call them ugly issue goods," said one of the

"Or watch her little sister in the Jack Frost song," said another.

"We will shut our eyes!" exclaimed another.

"And the middle-sized and short girls need not choose Susie in the
games," came from another.

"We will tell them not to. They will choose Dolly," cried a fifth.

"But Dolly looks so horrid, I am much ashamed of her," was Hannah
Straight Tree's answer.

Cordelia Running Bird heard the fierce discussion through the open door,
near which she knelt at work, and the bitter tears ran down her face.

When at length her work was done as well as she was able, and the last
stair wiped, she went back upstairs on tiptoe to inspect her floor and
see if it was dry. She was met by Hannah Straight Tree on the upper
landing, carrying a pail of scrub water, mixed with ashes, from the
dormitory. Hannah set it on the top stair, and then glanced wickedly at
Cordelia through half-closed eyes that meant mischief.

"What if I should tip it over?" she said.

"Ee! You must not. It would freeze, and I should have to scald my hands
with too hot water, thawing it!" exclaiming Cordelia Running Bird,
rushing to prevent her.

In her haste to keep the pail from being overturned Cordelia hit it with
her foot, upsetting it herself. The stairs were deluged with the
contents, Hannah Straight Tree fell back with a laugh. "Now see what
you have done yourself! I did not spill one drop. You cannot say I

Cordelia Running Bird burst into upbraiding exclamations in Dakota,
which, because they wished them to learn to speak English, was a
forbidden language in the school except on Sundays and on holidays. By
an odd mishap of memory, Cordelia was apt to break the rule in moments
of excitement, and she knew the penalty too well.

"Now you have talked Dakota, and you must report yourself," Hannah
Straight Tree said triumphantly. "You wished the dormitory girls would
have to lie in bed - now you must lie in bed yourself. You cannot
feather-stitch or speak to anyone."

The unclean water froze upon the stairs, and Cordelia Running Bird's
work of thawing it with hot water was a long and painful process. When
it was accomplished, though but poorly, she went upstairs a second time,
passing through the front hall to the white mother's room to report that
she had spoken in Dakota.

"Again, Cordelia? How can you forget so often?" said the young white
mother in a seriously inquiring tone.

The little Indian girl's excitement had now given place to
discouragement. She was silent for some time, then she murmured an
original defense.

"The cross thoughts come in Indian, and I speak them out that way.
Che-cha (hateful) means much more in Indian than in English. Dakota
is my own language, and it tells me how to scold just right."

"No, dear, just wrong," was the reply. Then looking at the draggled
little figure with head drooped moodily and smarting hands locked
tightly at the sides, the white mother added, "You have had a cold, hard
time this morning in the hall, I know. Have you been cross about your
work?" The gentle voice invited confidence, but it did not melt
Cordelia Running Bird.

"Yes, ma'am. I was very cross at Hannah Straight Tree and the dormitory
girls. I called the dormitory girls a name, and then a pail of very
dirty water was tipped over on my stairs, so again I had to clean them,
and I screamed at Hannah Straight Tree in Dakota."

"Did Hannah tip it over?"

"No, ma'am, I tipped it over."

With all her sense of injury, Cordelia Running Bird would not tell tales
to divide the blame.

The white mother saw that there was more than she knew of connected with
the trouble in the hall, but seeing that the race mood was upon
Cordelia, she forbore all further questions.

"It has often been explained that if the older pupils spoke Dakota very
much the little ones would speak it, too, and not learn English as they
should," she said. "I'm sorry that the cross thoughts caused you to
forget, Cordelia Running Bird."

"I am very cross now," said Cordelia, fearing her confession might be
misconstrued as a repentance. "I have enemies that I am hating very
hard. I shall be thinking Indian thoughts about them while I lie in

"I hope the cross thoughts will leave you if you lie in bed, where you
can be alone, and try to drive them out. I will send your dinner to the
dormitory," said the white mother.

"I cannot eat one bite for many days. I wish to starve," Cordelia
Running Bird said, as she turned away.


The girls had finished working in the dormitories and had gone below.
Cordelia Running Bird was relieved that she would not have to meet them
and endure such looks as they might give, though not allowed to speak to

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