Lucy Willie interview
Translating For KUED and PBS
By Phyllis Whitehorse
My clan is Biibitonii (Bitterwater clan) I am from Sweetwater and Clacheehii are my father, Toahoni are my paternal grandfather, shish dineeh (bear people) are my maternal grandfather. My name is Lucy and my story is short not very long.
Please tell your long walk stories about your ancestors?
I just know stories that were told to me about the long walk. My grandmother and my great great grandmother were captured when they were digging for wild onions and other foods. They were part of the people who were herded on the long walk. There were five people who were captured too. Some of the people ran into (Tsashintaa) black rocks and hid themselves so they didn’t go. Those people who hid in the rocks continued living there until the captured came home after they were released.
With women, men and children?
Yes. My grandmother, grandfather and great great grandmother were they were the ones involved in the long walk but the others stayed in Tsashintaa. That was what I was told. When the other came back they noticed they were still living there. At that time …
My mother’s father stayed he wasn’t involved in the long walk. At that time he was a young boy and he wasn’t part of the herd. He was part of the people who hid at tsabisheeskhii, tsashintaa he was there and that is why he wasn’t involved. People at that time used to survive on root food that was how they survived. They also use to eat rabbit, Naasiisi, liiatsho. And the time people used to live in hard times they lived in rocks and homes made out of burnt woods. They used to wear woven plants and they also used to use that for shoes. When a baby is born they used to wrap the baby up with rabbit skin. So as this was happening some of them were captured while they were digging for food to eat. The ones who were captured spent a lot of years away and when they were let go at tsahotso (yellow rock) when they got there they were given each one sheep. Four of them got four and they started herding over the mountain where you said you used to herd sheep. That place is called “where men used to play” hastyee ni danii. At the time when people were herded they lost some children there. The story goes, there was a lady who was about to have her baby, she told everyone that she can’t make it on the trip and told everyone to go ahead she and her three children stayed and told her husband to go ahead. When the people were released they came back to where they left the lady and three children and surprisingly they saw children playing by the river and noticed that they were grown up. When the children saw the people coming they ran underneath a big slab of rock. Suddenly the mother poke her head out to see and recognized who they were and the mother said it is your father. After that they started herding the sheep back to their home. This is just the stories that I was told.
What does she think about her ancestors that made the long walk?
They had a hard time going there they were punished and finally released to go back to their land. Hastin ha jelli was the one who negotiated and pleaded their released. He was the reason why they were sent home. It is really good that they were sent home. He brought back black goats and sheep. They born different colored babies and from that my grandfather was called Black sheep. The long walk was hard for them but they brought home sheep and goats. There is another story about three brothers who were captured and one of the boys was released. He was given a jacket to keep him warm. He ran and walked fast. He got hungry as he was walking and saw some pinion nuts. He picked a lot and put it in a gunny sack. He scooped up pinions with dirt so he shook the dirt out. He was walking again walked on top of a hill he noticed smoke coming out from home. He went over to the village and noticed there were Nakai (Mexican) people. They wanted some pinions and begged for it so he gave them each a handful. There was two couple who came to him with a girl and said to take her for all the pinions he had so he traded. He was scared for his safety. He stayed with them for a few days and sneaked away. He noticed a familiar rock standing out which was Shiprock. He got back to his people who are the biibitonii (Deer clan people) in Mexican Water. The ones that came home are just stories that I was told from my grandparents. The sheep and goats that are outside are the ones who are in the corral are the descendant from the long walk.
At that time how were they treated?
At that time they were kept by the soldiers. But some of them died of hunger.
What about the conditions of the long walk, the people how were they treated?
They were treated harsh. They were herded extremely hard. That was what I was told.