Identity Thief, by Ronna Whitehead
Updated: Jul 22, 2021
You ripped us from Mother’s arms, and Father tried to fight you. He didn’t have a gun, and your team had many. Uniformed men forced us into a wagon while Mother wailed. The carriage’s horses stopped several times to drag other children from their families. We sat in silence, guns keeping us from running away. We arrived at a train station and were forced into one of the large cars, all of us grouped together, frightened and confused. The others could hear the train’s loud noises, but my mother’s cries still echoed in my ears.
The train stopped many miles from our homes, somewhere we had never seen. We were taken from the train car and loaded onto another wagon. You explained to us that were going to a school. Our destination was a beautiful, large, white-columned home with many windows, and two large doors in the front. On the lawn you inspected us and took away the belongings we carried. Sister’s doll that Grandmother made was taken from her clutched arms and thrown into a fire pit in front of us. I could see her spirit rising from the flames with disenchanted eyes looking upon us. You seized Grandfather’s necklace from my neck. I watched the white, brown, and turquoise beads fall onto the soft, green ground beneath our feet. Sister grabbed my hand as you dragged her away, but she couldn’t hold on.
We were taken to a room lined with many beds stacked on top of one another and told to stand in front of the one we picked. You handed us new clothes and told us to throw the old ones in a pile. The new outfits were colored like a rain filled sky and were itchy and uncomfortable. We did as we were told. You threw our clothes in the fire. My mother made those for me, carefully placing each stitch. I wasn’t sure if I would see her again.
You forced us into another room where men with scissors cut off our braids and tears filled our eyes as the long ropes hit the ground. We looked more like you. Slowly, we were herded into another room. Sister appeared across the way in a line of girls whose hair looked like black bowls on top of their heads. Her eyes were wet and swollen. I cried at the sight of her.
You took away our "savage" names, and told us we could no longer use them; we would go by what was written on the paper you would hand us. A boy tried to explain to some younger ones what was happening in his language. You took him to the side and began beating him and yelling to never use that foul language again. Now we sound like you. You said you had to kill the Indian within to make us civilized people. I took the paper with my new name and I knew—my identity had been ripped away.
Ronna Whitehead is currently a senior at the University of Central Oklahoma, double majoring in Creative Writing and English. She has an Associates in Arts at Rose State College. Ronna is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. This is her debut flash fiction story.
Artist Catherine Eaton Skinner’s work is centered on the balance of opposites, as well as numerical systems, patterning and repetition used to construct order to our world. Skinner moves from the simplicity of tantric forms to the complexities of grids. She reflects, "We live in a world where it may be difficult to feel a part of the whole, but we continue trying to find ways to connect to place and to each other." Her various series of works give expression to her journeys through many cultures over the years. Her creative sensibilities stem from growing up in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, her BA in Biology from Stanford University and her painting instruction from Bay Area Figurative painters Nathan Oliveira and Frank Lobdell. She divides her time between Seattle and Santa Fe, a multidisciplinary artist working in painting, encaustic, photography, printmaking and sculpture. Skinner’s monograph 108 (Radius Books) showcases her investigation of the symbolic number. Various visual art anthologies contain her work. 100+ publications have highlighted her artwork, including LandEscape Art Review (London), Artists on Art, Magazine 43 (Berlin, Hong Kong, Manila), Saatchi Art, Blink Art, Contempo Annual, The Woven Tale Press, Apero and art ltd. Skinner has had 39 solo domestic and international exhibitions and her work has been in numerous group exhibitions in museum and galleries. Public collections include, among others, the Embassy of the United States, Tokyo; Boeing Corporation, Seattle; University of Washington, Seattle; and the Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma.