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Big and Little Sisters   By:

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A Story of an Indian Mission School



It was a Saturday morning in December at the Indian Mission School. Two young Sioux girls were going up the stairs Hannah Straight Tree and Cordelia Running Bird. It was their Saturday for cleaning. The two girls drew a heavy breath in prospect of the difficult task that confronted them. The great unplastered mission building was a chilly place throughout the winter, and the halls and stairway that morning were drafty from the blustering wind that swept the Dakota plains and came through the outer doors below, where restless children kept going to and fro continually. The young hall girls shivered on the upper landing, and stepped back in a sheltered niche in which the brooms were hanging. They had thrown their aprons over their heads and shoulders, and were dreading to begin their work.

"My floor and stairs always look nicer than your floor and stairs," said Hannah Straight Tree to Cordelia Running Bird.

"Because you have the teachers' side, and that's always nicer, to begin with, than the girls' side," answered Cordelia Running Bird. "You know the teachers never walk whole feet when you are scrubbing. If they have to go by, they walk tiptoe, and their toes are sharp and clean and do not make big tracks. But all the children on my side walk whole feet over the wet floor when I am scrubbing, and their shoes are big and muddy. Ugh! big tracks they make! But I have learned the motto, every word, and I can speak that when I feel discouraged with my work." Cordelia Running Bird gazed at the motto, while the dormitory girls flocked by, and when the hall was quiet she repeated it in the peculiar monotonous tone with which an Indian pupil usually recites:

"Those who faithfully perform the task of keeping clean the dark places, the cold places and the rough places, are they to whom it may indeed be said, 'Well done.'"

"I shall not try to learn the motto, for it makes my memory tired," said Hannah Straight Tree. "I do not like to think hard or work hard. I am glad I have the teachers' side."

"If you do not think hard you will have a heart that is a dark place, like the scrub pail closet, and it will he hard to keep it clean of wrong thoughts, like the white mother talked about in Sunday school. The motto means inside of us as well as places where we live. I like to think hard," said Cordelia Running Bird. "I heard the teacher tell the white mother that I had the best memory of any middle sized girl, and she said it was as good as many white girls' memories of my age, and that is 'most fourteen. So I am to speak the longest middle sized piece in the Christmas entertainment."

"Ee!" cried Hannah Straight Tree, "hear her brag because she has a white memory! If the teacher praised me, I should be ashamed to tell it!"

"She will not praise you, for you are always very dumb in school. You will not try to speak a lesson only with the class in concert," said Cordelia Running Bird. "I shall try to finish very fast this morning. There are only two more Saturdays till Christmas, and to day I want to feather stitch the little new blue dress for Susie. She will wear it every day when she is here Christmas. Many white and Indian visitors will be here."

"And you will feel so proud because the visitors and the school will look at Susie, and the middle sized and little girls will always choose her in the games. They would not choose my little sister if she played," said Hannah Straight Tree, with a sudden downcast look.

"Dolly is so shy I do not know if she would go into the middle of the ring if they should choose her, and she would not know the way to choose back," answered Cordelia Running Bird.

"Ee! She would! She would!" disputed Hannah Straight Tree. "Dolly is as brave and smart as Susie smarter, too, for she is shorter! She could play the games if I would let her!"

"But you will not," replied the other; "you must not scold about my little sister... Continue reading book >>

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