How the Strong Survive
When four rape victims come to Ben Pace — a Lakhota healer — Ben is given the task to help these women seek justice while, at the same time, aid them in their healing process. Only at the beginning of his spiritual development as a healer, Ben isn't sure how to help these women. After all, they are all white, and Ben is a Lakhota Sioux. After much thought and spiritual preparation, Ben comes up with a plan to help the women take back the power that the serial rapist stole from them.
The action they take, however, does not work as Ben had expected it to. Some of the women seem better, some worse, but none of them is completely healed. Is it because they are white and Ben was using Lakhota ways? Though the women have suffered the same violation at the hands of the same perpetrator, the women have not reacted as Ben thought they would. And the serial rapist, despite Ben's carefully planned strategy, is still at large, protected by his family's tremendous wealth and political power.
Is the difference in cultures the problem? Are Ben's and the women's cultural and spiritual beliefs at such odds with each other that no healing can occur? Is the conflict between the cultures too great for Ben and the victims to cross the chasm and reach what they all seek: justice and healing.
In powerful writing and vivid descriptions that allow us a glimpse into the world of Lakhota beliefs and spirituality, Newton Love has given us a twist on the detective novel. Ben Pace is not Sherlock Holmes. Ben is a detective who is Lakhota, human, imperfect, but, according to Lakhota ways, honorable. With memorable characters, an exciting plot, and stimulating dialogue, Love has created a new kind of detective while exploring the conflict between the Lakhota Way and other cultures' Ways.
Before the book was typeset, I sent it to two people I respect, who have kept me in touch with my people and their language.
The characters are compelling and telling at the same time. How the Strong Survive should give a Native reader a good sitdown and a Non-Native an Idea of how Traditional Peoples live and think even though a fictional novel. Great Book!Thomas Greywolf
It really WAS a pleasure to read this exciting &
fast-moving thriller with an intriguing point of
difference! The book's protagonist, freelance
investigator Ben Pace, is a modern day "wichasha
wapiya" (Lakota healer & seer), who happens also,
during the vicissitudes of a varied life, to have
acquired high-tech expertise! Ben sees life from the
fascinating indigenous Lakota spiritual perspective:
in terms of a system of cosmic checks & balances,
and imbued with a profound respect for the equilibrium
of the forces of nature, established by the Creator,
"Wakantanka" (The Great Mystery).
I especially appreciated the delicacy & restraint
with which Newt delineates the love story between
Ben & Theresa. Another very appealing feature is the
sassy Lakota humour in the interchanges of Ben with his
spirit-guides! Overall, the book is a nicely-judged
blend of hard-nosed realism, even cynicism, on the
one hand, with genuine spiritual vision, an informed
idealism, combined with great sensitivity & high
emotional intelligence, on the other.
Clive David Bloomfield
Classical Scholar, Irish Gaelic language teacher,
Lakhota language translator, and active participator in Lakhotaiyapi forum (Yahoo!) devoted to serious study of Lakhota language & culture.
At present, working on translation of works by Emil Afraid-Of-Hawk, a distinguished Lakhota writer of the 1930's & 40's.
Lightning struck the Maryland hilltop, igniting a blaze. Before rain quenched the fire, it burned the hilltop bare. It was quiet now. The wind sang songs of distant sunshine to the trees. Squirrels discussed the weather while the sparrows gossiped. It was the first phase of the Tender Grass Moon, or early April on the Gregorian calendar. I thanked Wakan Tanka, God, for the cleared land inside a forest close to Baltimore and Washington, DC. I built a home here to rest and recover.
Tall Brothers surrounded the hilltop, providing the squirrels with a tree branch beltway, and roosts for the winged ones. Many deer, raccoon, and other relations lived under their tall-trunked and leafy canopy. Most of the Tall Brothers were red, white and pin oaks, but included hickory, walnut and pine.
I smelled the sweet morning air. The small stand of Osage orange that I'd planted on the north side of the clearing were getting tall. The French called them "bow-wood." Of all wood, Osage orange is the most flexible. Members of the Osage tribe are pretty flexible too.
I wasn't the only one in need of healing. My spirit guide, Raven Who Hops, had told me that people would come that morning to ask me for help. That task would show me the next steps on my own path.
The angle of the sun showed that it was time. I closed my eyes, opened my mind and listened with my whole heart. Wooden wind chimes bumped in the breeze, providing a quiet drum to my prayer. Beauty and peace filled the small hilltop. I sensed humans approaching. A minute passed before I heard their car. I opened my eyes.
A blue-jay whistled an alert and flew to a perch on the porch. I spoke in the old earth tongue.
"Winged Brother, what is it?"
"One of the big box beasts comes."
"Stay and listen if you want, but it may be boring."
"Two-legged things are."
He flew away. I stood and walked the perimeter of the main geodesic dome to the east-facing front door. There was a knock. I opened it.
Four women stood in a diamond pattern on the large stone step. Each face wore a different emotion. The closest one looked serious. Behind her were two side-by-side. The one on the left seemed aloof, but she wasn't quite succeeding. The one on the right had a calm veneer, but the way she worked her left thumb's cuticle betrayed her. A flash of fear was all I glimpsed of the last, who prairie dogged behind the others.
"May I help you?"
The nearest one answered. "Are you Ben Pace?"
"Yes, and you are here to ask a favor." I stepped back, opening the door wider. "Please come in."
They entered while I watched. The one in back stayed close to the nervous one.
None of them appeared related, but they all looked similar. A police bulletin would have read "Be on the lookout for a female, five-foot-six-inches, 125 pounds, petite, with brown hair and small features."
The serious one wore a short-sleeved blue button-up shirt and blue slacks with sneakers. Random curls in various sizes framed her face. A coral nail polish matched her lipstick and her tan was an even bronze. Her eyes were green. Her right hand wore a gold shamrock ring with inlaid emeralds. Her left middle finger had an oval emerald set in a woven Celtic knot band. Her left pinky ring was a dragon with a ruby in his exposed claw. Her earrings were Celtic knots shaped into teardrops. She didn't wear a watch.
I could sense her pain, but also her strength. She seemed the type to take care of herself and others. Why would she need my help?
The aloof one wore black slacks and a crisp white shirt. Her basic red lipstick enhanced her untanned skin. A gold barrette fastened her coffee-colored hair at the base of her neck. Her eyes matched her hair. A large diamond solitaire graced her left hand and one-inch, gold hoop earrings glinted on her slightly detached earlobes. Three gold bracelets of varying thicknesses were on her left wrist. Her other wrist wore a plain, black-strapped, gold-coin watch. Her closed-toe but open-heeled shoes, belt, and purse could have been made from the same piece of black leather.
Everything about her said "money." Surely her family had a fixer on their payroll. Why seek me out?
While the nervous one was as tall as the rest, she had longer legs and a shorter torso. Tan slacks held a creased taper to a pair of oxblood penny loafers. Shoulder length chestnut hair fell in waves to brush the collar of her navy blue polo shirt. Her eyes were blue, and her earrings were pearl. An artistic medallion clasped her tan leather belt. Her lipstick was only a few shades darker than the skin tone visible between her freckles. No rings were on her long tapered fingers.
A Lakhota name for her came to mind: "Little Flower." I sensed a deep strength in her. The women puzzled me. What could tie them together and make them seek me out?
The fourth didn't make much eye-contact as she attempted to hide behind Little Flower. She wore baggy grey sweats. Her brown hair and occasionally her brown eyes peaked from under a Baltimore Orioles baseball cap. Running shoes finished her outfit. She wore neither makeup nor jewelry. Here was one who was damaged and weak. Perhaps it was this one that I would help.
I ignored their whispers and stepped through the open flap of my tipi, crossing to the center fire-pit. I was sure that a full-sized great tipi was not what they expected to find inside my home. From the outside, it's an enclosed porch and three geodesic domes, from large to small. The inside of the largest was filled with a hide-covered tipi. Living in one helped my warrior-priest training.
On a trip to Montana, I had hand-harvested each of the tipi's twenty-eight lodge-pole pine trees that leaned against one another in mutual support. The interior was twenty-eight feet wide at the base and over two stories tall at the tie-off, with bare poles reaching above that to the dome's roof. Ten of the thirty-two hides that covered the poles were from my own meat-making. The rest were from the tribal store back home. I had tanned all but two of the thick fur hides inside the tipi. Of those two, one was a gift from my parents, the other a gift from fellow priest.
The serious one spoke.
"He said to dress as if we were going to a ranch. He wasn't kidding."
They looked around the tipi, maybe searching for a place to sit.
"There are no chairs," I said. "Perhaps you would be more comfortable in the kitchen?"
I got a few dirty looks. Perhaps I sounded sexist. I rephrased it.
"There are wasiçiu chairs in other rooms. The kitchen is the closest. In here, we sit traditional style." Comprehension did not cross their faces, so I added, "We sit on skins on the floor in here."
Little Flower asked, "Is a wah-see-chew chair comfortable?"
I smiled inside, but kept my face muscles slack. "Wasiçiu is Lakhota for 'fat stealer.' We use it to mean white society."
She looked sheepish.
"Do not worry, Little Flower. You cannot be wrong for asking to know more." I let my eyes smile as her own smile rekindled. "Visitors tell me that my chairs are comfortable."
They looked around to each other, then the serious one spoke.
"Perhaps we should try the kitchen."
I left the tipi and walked the perimeter to where a second and smaller, but still large dome was joined. It held a modern kitchen, dining room, and entertainment area. One-quarter of it was an enclosed office area. There were windows at regular intervals up to the top, which let in a lot of light.
Traditional Lakhota homes and furnishings drew their design from the circle of winds and the roundness of the earth's horizon. I walked to the round pine table. Lakhota custom said I should sit first, but instead I stood and waved to the chairs. The serious one sat on the northeast. The aloof one sat on the east, Little Flower on the south, with the fearful one between them. I had the west half of the table to myself.
The serious one spoke.
"We need your help."
"Yes, I know. My spirit guide told me to expect you."
"Did he tell you our problem?" asked the aloof one.
I thought I heard a trace of sarcasm in her voice. No matter. My path did not include making people believe Lakhota ways.
"That's not how a spirit guide works. Never mind. You are here about something very important to you."
The serious said, "We're being stalked by a sick-o and we want it to stop."
We were all silent. I needed to know a lot more, but they would not want to tell those details to a stranger. I would let them know me first.
"Thank you for visiting me. You know my name, so please call me Ben. I am Lakhota."
"Do you mean Sioux?" Little Flower asked.
"That old word is not our name. It's all a misunderstanding. The Ojibwa called us nadewisou, which in their tongue meant 'by the twisting river.' The French shortened it to Sioux. The name became a common reference to us. It is so deeply ingrained that we can't change it. It is similar to your saying 'German' when they say 'Deutsche', or your saying 'Japan' and not 'Nippon'."
"It is nothing." I continued to open to them. "As a young man, the Army taught me to be a telephone lineman. After I got out, I came to Maryland and went to work for Bell Atlantic. Five years ago, a utility truck backed into the pole I was on. I fell."
I saw concern on their faces.
"It's okay. I am partially disabled but not dead. When Sitting Bull was young, he was shot in the foot. It healed wrong, and he limped his whole life, but he still could run faster and fight better than men with two good feet."
I permitted myself to smile, hoping it would help them to be brave.
"I am ready and able to help, but first you must tell me who you are."
Three of them looked to the serious one. She spoke.
"My name is Rita Cade. I own 'Shears Locks Combs,' a hair salon in Bowie."
She looked to her left, to the aloof one.
"I'm Maria Vacarro. I'm a pediatrician."
She looked to her left, to the frightened one, who shook her head, and then looked down. From her other side, Little Flower touched her hand and spoke to her.
Little Flower turned to me.
"I'm Kelly, Kelly Larson. I do daycare in Glen Burnie. This is Lisa Towers. She's a little overwhelmed. She runs a crew for Nifty-Maid."
Lisa examined me from under the bill of her cap. They were all looking at me. I closed my eyes and sensed the room. Lisa and Maria's auras held fear, Rita's aura held apprehension, while Kelly's was one of anger or frustration. Perhaps she would be the one to tell me the specifics, but I couldn't ask her directly. I opened my eyes and spoke to their leader.
"Rita, how did you come here?"
"We took the freeway to the …"
"No, Spring Blossom, I meant, who told you to look for me?"
"I cut hair for some of the workers at the horse racing track in Laurel. I asked one of them if he knew someone who would kill a bastard for me. He said, yes, except after he'd heard the whole story, he laughed and said 'the bastard doesn't need killing; he needs to be savaged'. I asked him what he meant. He gave me your name and a map. He told me to not use a phone, but instead just pick a day and come. He said you seem to be here when you're needed."
That is part of having a spirit guide. They sometimes let you know what's on your schedule.
"Was his name Roy?"
"Yes, Roy Campagnella. How did you know?"
I would never admit what I had done for or with Roy. He always paid in cash.
"Roy and I share some history."
A look of wonder crossed her face. Wasiçiu faces display a running montage of their inner dialogue. Only their poker players and politicians practiced anything like Lakhota face control. I turned to Maria, then Kelly and Lisa.
"Are you here for the same reason as Rita?"
Maria and Lisa nodded, with Lisa's head drooping low. Kelly spoke.
"We all want the bastard to suffer."
"What did he do?"
"He raped us. First me, then two women who aren't with us, then Maria, then a woman that killed herself, then Kelly, then Lisa."
Maria's voice held contempt.
"Those are the ones that we know of."
I now knew why they walked in the order they did. The ones with the greatest separation from their trauma were in front. As the most recent victim, Lisa kept back. I turned to Little Flower.
"Kelly, you show the most anger. Why?"
"The bastard humiliated me … us. He made us beg to be let go, then told us that if we begged him to do it, he wouldn't kill us." She leaned forward. "I want him dead. I was going to buy a gun and shoot him, but they stopped me."
"You know that they are right, don't you? If you tried, you would just wind up in jail."
It was time to touch the wound.
"Why isn't he in prison?"
Lisa began to cry. Kelly and Maria tried to comfort her. Rita gave me a cold stare.
"His lawyers beat the DA in court."
"Were his lawyers lucky or good?"
"He had a whole firm of high-priced Baltimore lawyers. Didn't you see it in the news?"
"No. What put your case in the news?"
"The rapist, John Keagey, is a Kinkaed."
"Yeah, his family has a governor, a US Senator and six US congressmen, with the next generation waiting in state legislatures."
"We'll never get justice. The court's a joke that's on us," Rita said.
"Do you all want the same thing?"
"We all want him dead," Maria said. "Since he won in court, he's been simply horrible."
There were nods around the table. Kelly's eyes held rage.
"He waited outside my house after work one evening. He told me that he was going to make me his girlfriend again."
A tear rolled down her cheek.
"He said that he still has my panties."
Her clenched hands showed white knuckles. While Maria comforted Kelly, Rita and Lisa stared at me with rage in their eyes. I spoke into the maelstrom.
"I will help you, but you must help me to help you."
That brought quiet.
"Keagey and the Kinkaeds need to understand that the earth is not their private playground. At the same time, we must make sure that your lives are not made worse by our efforts."
Rita pulled a brown paper bag from her purse and placed it on the table.
"There's ten thousand dollars there. If you need more, we'll find a way to get it. We're not as rich as the Kinkaeds, but we will pay you to take care of this."
"It's not part of the Lakhota way to require payment for a deed that must be done. Our way holds that the strong and brave must serve the weary and weak. I cannot be a good Lakhota man while there are people in the village who are hungry, cold, or afraid."
I picked up the bag of money and placed it in Rita's hand.
"Perhaps we will share expenses, but you do not need to pay me to be a man."
"So, you will kill him for us?"
"No, I will do something much worse than that."
It was quiet in the room.
"I will need phone numbers."
I took four cards from my wallet.
"Here is my information."
Rita put the money into her purse and pulled out a folded sheet of paper.
I took it and set it on the table.
"Now that you have come to me and I have promised to help you, each of us has taken steps on a path that we will now walk together. Progress brings comfort, but don't let it show. We are now at war with the Kinkaeds. Our strongest weapon is surprise. You must not change how you act toward him. Don't tip him off that something is coming. Okay?"
A chorus of agreement filled the air.
I continued, "We need a plan to not end up in trouble. I need time to think."
I looked each one in the eyes.
"We must not let anyone know what we are doing. You all can continue to associate, but you don't know me. We will be strangers that meet and talk, nothing else. Understand?"
I received another round of agreement.
"If Keagey bothers you, call the police or whatever you usually do. Only call me as a last resort. For this to work, you can't let anyone know about me. When I contact you, I will say the Lakhota man's greeting 'Hau' to let you know it's me. It means both 'hello' and 'how are things going?' "
"Like the Hawaiian word 'aloha'?" asked Maria.
"Yes, except we don't use it for good-byes."
I stood and walked to a drawer in my utility closet. I returned with four cheap cell-phones. I passed them out.
"Here, take these. These are throw-aways. The phone number is on the piece of masking tape on the phone. Use these for our business until we are finished. When we are finished, soak them overnight in bleach before you discard them in a public trashcan. Don't act surprised when I call. I will tell you when and where we can meet, or ask you to pick a place and time. Never discuss anything over the phone."
I smiled the grin of Iktomi, the Trickster.
"You will have your revenge and solution."
Rita must have sensed that I was finished. She stood up, triggering the same action in the others.
"Is it okay if I use Rita as my primary contact?" I asked.
They all nodded.
"Then I suggest you go to lunch, but don't celebrate too much until Keagey's been dealt with."
I started for the doorway that led back into the tipi dome. I ignored the conversations behind me as they followed. The view through the open windows reminded me of the Great Spirit's kindness. I walked in his beauty. I walked in his strength. As I walked, I radiated his peace, painting the walls with love.
My blue-jay friend was in a tree near one of the open windows.
"Are they leaving? Their big box beast smells."
I chuckled then spoke in the ancient tongue, "Yes, Winged Brother, they leave."
He flicked his tail and flew away. Kelly caught up to me and touched my arm.
"Did you just talk to that bird?"
"Yes, Little Flower, but don't tell anyone. They might doubt your sanity."
"I can hardly believe I saw it."
"Perhaps your world changed a little today."
I said the eastern sky blessing in my head and opened the front door. Kelly hung back looking out the window. Rita stepped forward and shook my hand.
"It's good to meet you. When will you call?"
"Soon, Spring Blossom. Be patient."
Maria shook my hand.
I let a small smile come to my lips and eyes. She smiled back then left. Kelly stepped in and hugged me. Lisa joined the hug, then began to cry. She hadn't said a word the whole time she was here. I put my arms around their shoulders and connected to the hilltop stone under my home, drawing the ancient strength of the Stone People up and around us. The women jumped a little when the energy bathed us. I spoke into Kelly's hair.
"Don't worry, Little Flower. The Great Father's strength is now on us. All will be well in time."
Lisa leaned back, her eyes sparkling from more than tears. She tried to speak. After a failed attempt, her mouth silently formed the words "Thank you" before she stepped outside. Kelly looked into my eyes.
"Are you a wizard?"
"No. I'm a disabled telephone lineman."
"And I'm a warrior princess."
"Yes, I know you are. Now go. I have research to do before I can make our plan."
She stepped away, but turned back.
"Are you married?
"No. Now go."
I turned to plan how John Keagey would beg for death before he went to prison.
John Keagey's silver spoon had fed his sense of security for long enough. Soon he would know the taste of fear. I needed a plan to expose him, while protecting us, and needed it soon.
I stepped inside, went to the middle dome, and crossed to my office. Two windowed exterior walls and four interior walls enclosed a hexagon-shaped space lined by shelves over a wide counter that circled the room, even under the windows. The shelves held more artifacts and fetishes than books. The tabletop doubled as a desk and workbench. I used the part under the northwest exterior wall as my desk. On the eastern interior wall counter sat computers that hosted part of the Indian Heritage Web-Ring.
I tapped a phone number from memory. At the beep, I pressed my phone number then cradled the hand set, ending the call. My spirit guide, Raven Who Hops, said my nickname.
He became visible on the windowsill.
"Hau. So, what do you see ahead?"
"The renegade is protected and grows arrogant in his imagined security. His relatives' misuse of power disrupts the present and disturbs the future."
Ever the tutor, Raven asked, "What must be done?"
"Harmony must be restored. The power must be rebalanced."
"You are learning well. Can you see how this will help you complete your training to reach the second level of Stone Dreaming?"
Raven loved pop quizzes.
"Center and listen."
I emptied my basket of expectations and opened my heart to learn. It came to me.
"Before I can progress, I need to do more than just understand the strength of the Stone People. I must learn to use it."
"Yes. The power of the Stone People will help you remove the renegade's obstruction to the flow of skan: power. The universe must flow smoothly, without turbulence."
"Yeah, eddies in the space time continuum and all."
He cocked his head but didn't laugh.
"We will talk later. You have a call."
He hopped from the windowsill to the ground, then toward the trees before hopping into flight and vanishing. The phone rang.
"You beeped. What's up."
It was Roy Campagnella.
"You set me up on a blind date but didn't tell me."
"I figured your raven friend would make sure that you were home when they came by."
"You presume much."
"Yeah, I know. It's a problem I need to work on. So, what do you want?"
"I ought to count coup on you. You know it's against Lakhota custom to tell strangers where people live."
"You think you can hit me and dance away before I smack you back? I'm not easy to count coup on. Besides, Rita's no stranger. We've been friends for a million years."
"Wow, you look only half your age."
"Wise-ass. So, you want the skinny or what?"
"We should eat together," I said.
"I can get free this afternoon."
"How about some buffalo?"
"Sure. We swept there a few days ago. There aren't any listening devices to spoil our fun."
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