The 4th Gift of Christmas at Wounded Knee Creek, 1891

Despite heart-warming stories such as the Christmas Truce of 1914 and the redemption of Scrooge in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Christmas and its message of “peace on earth, goodwill to men”, does not always bring about compassion nor does it everywhere restrain evil.

“In late 1891, Tibbles and Susette [La Flesche] traveled to Pine Ridge, on of the Sioux reservations in southwestern South Dakota. Many had fled the reservation, fearful of the soldiers who’d come to quell any disturbances aroused by the Ghost Dance. Starving Indians danced to bring the savior, to se departed loved ones living again, and to see the whites driven away and a new earth returned, once again home to free Indians, the buffalo, the elk, and the antelope.

On Christmas Eve, soldiers slaughtered a band of Indians camped near Wounded Knee Creek; they were under Chief Big Foot and included men, women, and children. In one of the darkest moments of her life, Susette helped care for the survivors that escaped to Pine Ridge.”
~Women of the Frontier by Brandon Marie Miller

And this episode and other like it illustrate why we need more than a message from angels, more than the moral law that we know to be true: we need a Savior.

Today’s Gifts from Semicolon
A song: “I understand Christmas as I understand Bach’s Sleepers Awake or Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. . . When I am able to pray with the mind in the heart, I am joyfully able to affirm the irrationality of Christmas.” ~Madeleine L’Engle

A booklist: A Madeleine L’Engle Annotated Bibliography

A birthday: Nick Vujicic, Serbian Australian evangelist and motivational speaker, b. 1982.

A verse: God Knows by Minnie Louise Haskins.

Women of the Frontier by Brandon Marie Miller

51aDnzTnIKL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_Women of the Frontier: 16 Tales of Trailblazing Homesteaders, Entrepreneurs, and Rabble-Rousers by Brandon Marie Miller.

This collective biography/history was a fascinating book, although I found myself skimming the explanatory material at the beginning of each chapter to go directly to the stories of the women themselves. Some of the women I knew something about: Margret Reed, a survivor of the ill-fated Donner Party; Narcissa Whitman, missionary to Oregon; Carry Nation, prohibition campaigner; and Cynthia Ann Parker, captive of the Comanches and mother to Quanah Parker, famous Comanche chief.

Even about these women I learned new things:
According to the author, Narcissa Whitman grew to nearly despise the Native Americans she traveled to Oregon to minister to and convert.

After years of “smashing” saloons to protest the evils of alcohol, Carry Nation settled in Eureka Springs, Arkansas and opened a home for the (abused) wives of alcoholics. The home was called Hatchet Hall.

Indian captive Cynthia Ann Parker was taken back from the Comanches when her son Quanah was only twelve years old, and she thought he was dead. She did not know that he became a great warrior chief of the Comanche.

Then, there were the many seemingly ordinary, actually extraordinary, women who managed to survive a life of hardship and vicissitudes that would have put me into an early grave. Amelia Stewart Knight traversed the Oregon Trail, “out of one mud hole into another all day.” And she was four months pregnant when she and her husband and their seven children left Iowa to head for Oregon. Luzena Wilson learned that she could make more money by cooking and cleaning for the 49ers in the California gold fields than she or her husband could by mining. Then, she learned by experience with both that a fire or flood could destroy everything she had built and earned, and she learned to start all over again.

Mary Lease fought for government regulation of the railroads, the graduated income tax, the direct election of senators, and suffrage for women. She lived to see all of these things enshrined in law. Sarah Winnemucca and Susette La Flesche, on the other hand, both championed the rights of Native Americans, but lived to see most of the promises of the U.S. government to the Native peoples broken and the Native people themselves mistreated and disrespected.

I was inspired and a bit humbled by the stories of these ladies. Again, I’m not sure how I would have done, given their circumstances and faced with their choices. I’d like to say that I would have persevered and made a life despite the difficulties and adversities they faced, but I don’t really know.

Said one Kansas woman:

“It might seem a cheerless life, but there were many compensations: the thrill of conquering a new country; the wonderful atmosphere; the attraction of the prairie, which simply gets into your bloom and makes you dissatisfied away from it; the low-lying hills and the unobstructed view of the horizon; and the fleecy clouds driven by the never failing winds.”

Maybe those things, and more, were enough.