The rocking movement of the boat is making me sick. It’s stuffy with the thirty of us inside the small cabin on the warm day. Our hands are tied to stop us from escaping, as if we could attempt anything like that after going without food for three days. I am not sure why this is happening.
Everything was so normal three days back. I was watching my father chopping wood outside our teepee when my mother had called me in for some chores. Suddenly, the whole place rang with booming sounds. We got down on our knees, terrified. An eerie silence ensued, soon followed by horror-filled wails and sound of urgent footsteps and struggle.
Worried for my father, I ran outside, in spite of my mother’s frantic calls. My father was lying on the earth. It was difficult to recognise him with a gaping hole on his cheek. Grandfather had a wound on his chest the oozed blood. I tried to staunch the blood flow, but his eyes rolled. Of course, I didn’t cry–true warriors don’t cry…may be a little, but father had once said that, since I was six, I was allowed.
People in foreign dress were holding weapons, asking women and children to line-up. I thought they were going to kill us too. But they tied our hands together behind us and made us march for two days. Elusa, my best friend, couldn’t walk as fast as they wanted because her one leg wasn’t quite right. They shot her in the head. Of course, I didn’t cry–true warriors don’t cry. But I was six…
On the second night, they brought us to this dark room that smelled of urine. We weren’t allowed to make a sound. Anybody who spoke was whipped until they bled. It was hot with around a hundred of us in there. I wanted to ask for food, or at least water, but mother shushed me. She said it will bring whiplashes. My feet were full of blisters. My sandals had broken on the way and I dare not ask for another pair.
Now thirty of us are cramped inside this boat…I am thirsty, hungry, tired and a little sick. Worse still, I understand nothing of what ‘they’ say, except that it isn’t anything good. They haven’t told us where they are taking us…or may be they have, we just can’t understand them.
I whisper, “Mother, I’m going to be sick. Should I ask them if they can let me out, so I can throw up?”
“Honey! I don’t think they’d care if you throw up on yourself. We are just chattel for them.”
Scared, I blurt out, “Will they kill us too?”
But Mother is thoughtful, “I don’t think so. They could have killed us at the village, if they wanted. May be, they will sell us…”
“So, where are they taking us?”
“Not sure, but feels like it is terribly far away.”
I finally ask the question that has been killing me for all these days, “If they sell us, will I still be allowed live with you, Mother?”
Her lips tremble but she’s silent, looking at me with eyes full of pain. Of course, I don’t cry–true warriors never cry. But, then, I’m just six…
Author’s note: Before slavery was abolished in the USA, native Americans who were prisoners of war were sold as slaves. Once slavery was abolished in USA, these prisoners were shipped to Mexico, where slavery was still legal, in stuffy, small boats. Children as young as six years and women were sold as chattel to whoever made the highest bid. They, then, lived and died on the whim of their owners, without any rights and treatment fit for animals.