Into the West Part 5: Casualties of War

Jacob Wheeler Jr. watches as the soldiers play baseball on what is Indian sacred ground and remarks to a friend that, ‘It’s like a church’, leaving the lasting impression on me that, for the Indians, it was like those men were playing baseball in a church. No matter the difference of religion, the white men had no respect for those who had lived on this land before them. The Indians were dirt under their feet as far as they were concerned.

And when gold was discovered in the Black Hills, getting rid of the Indians was essential.

In Into the West Part 5: Casualties of War, we are introduced to a whole new event in history that would change the lives of Indian children forever.

Robert and Clara Wheeler, having struck out on their own, now have their own store and are thriving. However, there is a sudden rift between the couple that is hard to understand. Clara is upset at Robert for traveling up into the Black Hills where he could easily be killed. That place is dangerous and she doesn’t want him to go back.

But even with that problem out in the open, we are certain that there’s something else wrong…there’s something else that’s happened that’s put space between this young couple who are so much in love.

The Indians are gathering with Sitting Bull for an attack against the white men. Red Lance, grandson of Running Fox, and White Crow, grandson of Dog Star, decide to join Sitting Bull in the fight. Red Lance’s young brother, Voices That Carry, also wishes to join the fighting but Dog Star wants the young boy with him. After all, Voices That Carry is still a boy, why should his life be at risk on a battlefield?

Margaret Light Shines has been sent to the Pine Ridge Reservation with a group of young girls whom she is taking care of as her own. Promising them that she will never leave them, that she will always take care of them, she makes a home on the reservation and holds her own, without begging for anything from the white men.

Jacob Jr. is still under the command of General Custer. Things are going badly when they hear of the army that has gathered with Sitting Bull. Jacob goes to investigate and returns to tell General Custer that he saw fields of horses. There were so many, and Jacob urges General Custer to wait for their reinforcements. Custer, however, eager for a victory against the Indians, disregards the advice given and decides to ride out anyway, certain that the Indians will flee as soon as they see his army.

Spoilers below!

Custer assembles his army and they ride out. Jacob, knowing that the chances of his survival are very slim, gives a letter for his parents to a friend, telling him to make sure it gets back to them if anything should happen. Jacob rides out with the army and is struck down by the Indians. We are left wondering what happens to him…for a time.

Custer is defeated, the victory belongs to the Indians…but with the victory there is always mourning. Voices That Carry had slipped away from Dog Star during the night and warned his brother about the white men who would come for them. After the battle is done, the task is given to him to return White Crow’s–Dog Star’s grandson’s–body to Dog Star. He does so and watches as Dog Star and his family mourn the loss of their grandson.

Robert and Clara hace made the decision to join Captain Richard Henry Pratt in a new endeavor. Teach the Indian children white men’s ways. But this would involve taking the children from their families. Dragging them away from everything familiar and, in the end, turning them into white men.

Voices That Carry is among the children taken. But Margaret, knowing that the white men’s knowledge can be a dangerous thing, keeps her children with her and teaches them the white men’s schooling in her own way.

The change that takes place for the children is heartbreaking. Torn from their home and families, they are forced to give up everything familiar. Captain Pratt himself takes the medicine wheel necklace off of Voices That Carry. The necklace was passed on to him from his brother, Red Lance, who entrusted Voices That Carry with it. No matter what, he wants that necklace back.

Their bags are taken from them, their clothes are changed and their hair is cut. Indians would only cut their hair during times of mourning, and Voices That Carry refuses to let the white men cut his.

Left sitting in the middle of the yard, alone, he cries out to the Great Spirit in a prayer and then, with the other children watching from their bedroom windows, he takes out his knife and hacks off his braids. This doesn’t seem like such a touching scene when it is written on paper, but if you were to watch this movie, you would feel the pain in the children’s eyes. You would cry with them when Voices That Carry cuts his hair. I did.

Clara and Robert both start to question their decision to help Captain Pratt change these children. Neither one of them thought that the idea was to completely wipe out the childrens’ heritage. But, apparently, that is what Captain Pratt wants. Clara and Robert both know that things have to change and, even though they’ve come to care very much for Voices That Carry, it’s time for them to move on.

But, how will this change affect the children in the end? Will they ever truly belong in the white men’s world? And, after the white men are through with them, will they ever belong in the Indians world again? They have been taught how to be white men…but will this knowledge change them so much that they will never belong with their families again?

Into the West Part 5: Casualties of War was another excellent episode in the series. We get a glimpse into the world of the children and the changes that they are forced to make because their parents believe it will help them survive.

If you’ve not watched this series then I will once again urge you to see it. It is phenomenal.

Coming Soon: In the Colorado Territory, far from her home in France, she searches for the one man she’s loved since childhood…her father. His grief finally healed, he’s ready to start fresh…but he never expected the gorgeous Frenchwoman who marches into his life! Look for my review of Remembered, by Tamera Alexander, soon!!

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