Sky by Tex Etsitty of Navajo Technical University
Editors Note: On May 11, 2016, Eugene Limpy recounted
this story of volunteerism to Gail Small. This oral history supplements
Smalls essay, Vestahem Among the Northern
There was a big man, he stood about 63, from the
Rosebud Creek with broad shoulders and he was a hard worker. His
name was Henry Littlewhiteman and his Cheyenne name was Nahkohenexahe
(Bear Orphan). He was my grandpa. He had two brothers, James and
Peter. Both of them were hard workers too. Peter could not hear,
since a rattlesnake bite took his hearing away when he just a kid,
but he could do sign talk.
My grandpa never went into Sundance. He was strictly a faster.
He fasted on the Red Hill behind his place. He was a strong medicine
man. He had a medicine bundle and he doctored people.
The vision my grandpa got was to take care of his people. He
took this message very seriously and he lived his life around that.
People back then took Cheyenne ceremonies very seriously and they
walked their talk.
Henry Littlewhiteman decided that the people who lived along
the Rosebud Creek needed a place to come together. It is a pretty
isolated area of the reservation. He told his brothers that he was
going to build a big log house for the Ree District and that it
would become the community hall. Sometimes his brothers helped him
but most of the time it was just him. He would haul the logs in
from the hills with horses. It took a few years but he must have
got it all built in the early 1940s because it had already
been built for about five years when I was born.
Henry built that whole community hall without asking for money
or anything. I guess that is what they call volunteer labor today.
The hall had two big potbelly woodstoves that kept it warm.
Grandpa would haul wood in on a team and wagon from the hills and
pile big stacks of firewood around the hall. And he built long tables
for use inside of the hall.
Grandpa would even haul coal in from the creek above Old Roman
Noses house. They used the coal to keep the hall warm.
The log hall was the center of many good times along the Rosebud
Creek. People from all over came to attend the Indian dances,
Onehanotaxevesanestotse (dressing for a war dance). They also came
for the hand games, card games, bingos, and giveaways. Anything
the people wanted to celebrate, they did there. Veterans Day was
one of the bigger gatherings at this hall because we really honor
People would leave their tent poles in the ground around the
hall all year long, so that when they came back they could put their
canvas tents right up. Those days they even had stove pipes in their
tents for their stoves and it was like a home.
There would sometimes be two feet of snow there, and people
would be riding in on their horses and pulling in on their wagons
to set up camp. My grandpa would have their firewood and coal already
there for them. People would camp around the hall for two weeks,
sometimes longer, during Christmas and New Years. They came
on horseback or team and wagon from as far as Birney and Ashlandthats
about 20 miles each way.
My grandpa even used to have food waiting for the people. He
got along with the ranchers pretty good, and those days we only
had White ranchers here. My grandpa would get Burton Brewster to
donate a cow for the Christmas feastthat way they had a lot
of meat for the holidays. When people got there they knew my grandpa
had things set up and ready for their visit. Charlie Whitedirts
family, Ray Harriss family, the Killsnights, Flyings, Henry
Siouxmany of these families and others from the different
districtsall came in and camped for the holidays.
Christmas was a special holiday for my grandpa. I remember going
out into the hills with him on his horse and sleigh below the red
hills. He would go up to a big cedar tree and talk to that tree
like a person: Its that time of year again, I come for
one of your brothers. We are going to put him in the dancehall.
He would actually ask for permission to cut down the cedar tree.
I heard him.
He would put the big cedar tree in the dancehall and it made
the whole place smell good. Behind the cedar tree he would hang
Chief Two Moons flag from the Custer battle. I always remember
how it all lookedpretty special.
The people liked to play all kind of games. They used to bet
blankets or material or whatever they had in the stick games, bingo,
and card games. I remember the women used to move all the tables
into the middle of the hall and they would race each other around
the tables carrying a spoon with an egg on it. That was the time
they all wore shawls, so seeing them running around like that was
a funny sight. They even had a game that whoever ate the most crackers
and then whistled won. It was funny to watch too. They knew how
to have fun in those days when there was no TV, and there was no
alcohol or drugs.
My grandpa always had one gift for each of his grandkids. I
think back now and know how important that was. My grandpa would
watch us and it seemed like he knew what we would become as we grew
up. For instance, I used to roll socks into a ball and use a wire
hoop to play basketball. The gift I got from my grandpa was a little
basketball one year. Those prayers and what they saw in you, they
worked. Look at my life, how basketball became such a big part of
my life and it took me all over the world.
My grandpa taught us many good things. There were usually 12
of us grandkids with him. He took us all with him to cut poles,
hunt, garden, and we learned how to work. He would put up a sweat
in the middle of winter and dig a hole in the creek for us grandkids
to jump into. He told us that it would help us not to get sick,
and to this day I hardly get sick.
My grandpa built three log houses for his family. But one of
them was always open for those people who didnt have a place
to live. He kept that extra house for them. Like I said, his vision
was to take care of the people and he did.
My grandpa was also the drum keeper along the Rosebud. That
is a role that is dying out. The drum that we sing with is sacred.
In those days, our people were self-sufficient. Like my grandpa,
he never asked for anything like money. He just did it. It was the
old peoples ways to help each other out.
Nobody had welfare in them days. No matter how cold it was,
they went outside and worked every day, [they] hunted, hauled wood
and water, or whatever to get by. They had pride in themselves.
My name is Magpie Red, Moeha Maetahtse. I
was named after a Cheyenne Arapaho on my fathers side. His
name was White Antelope and he was from the Wind River reservation
in Wyoming. He got the name after the Great Race story. Remember
the magpie who won the racethe buffalo was running so hard
that he was blowing out some blood. So when the magpie would swoop
down and back up again, he got little sprinkles of blood from the
buffalo on him. But he won the race for us, so that is my name.
Limpy (left) with his family. (photo by Tisha Limpy)