Hood County News
Saturday, October 18, 1997
Oh Great Spirit
Comanche Peak memories flow for Indian Woman
by SHIRLEY PETROSHUS
Legs flying and heart racing so fast she could hear it pumping in her ears, 12-year-old Black Star ran as fast as she could along the edge of the mesa atop Comanche Peak.
The traditional run on top of the peak was the beginning ritual of the Comanche Indian maiden’s “becoming a woman” ceremony. It was also the beginning of an emotional attachment to the peak that she’s never outgrown.
“You had to run real hard, as fast as you could and it was a long way around,” explained Black Star with a wistful smile as the memories washed over her face. “W hen you came back the grandmothers would wash your hands, face and feet and put special medicines on you. Then there’d be a circle of the family and some others, and they’d have a prayer to ask that you be a strong woman. The prayers help you grow in ways of becoming a good woman. After the special prayers came the drumming and singing.”
Many moons have passed since that day long ago and Black Star’s hair is now gray. She wears it in a thick braid that falls to below her waist. As she walked atop the peak Monday afternoon for the first time in 40 years, the intensity of her memories filled her heart and tears welled in her faded blue eyes.
“It was a wonderful feeling,” Black Star said. “I felt so happy I wanted to lay right down on the ground there–get as close as I could.
“There as so many memories connected with that place. Not only mine but the memory I had of my grandmother because her memories became mine.”
Black Star was born near Cash Creek in Comanche County, Okla. “in about 1918 but nobody seems to know for sure.” She was reared near Brazos Point in Bosque County by her mother’s aunt, whom she calls “grandmother.” They moved to Godley when Black Star was 12.
“My grandmother first took me up on Comanche Peak for my becoming a woman ceremony that began my teaching from her in the Spirit ways,” Black Star said. “When our people were free in the area, we went up on the sacred mountain many times for many ceremonies. We called it Kitiauwah. It means the place of the spirits. All the ceremonies for the living and dying were there. There was always a drum and sometimes they’d spread the ashes of people who had gone to the spirit world.”
Black Star remembers the coming of age ceremonies for a young man or a young woman, ceremonies to name babies (when they were a year old), ceremonies where young men and women “put their lives together,” and healing ceremonies.
“We’d put green cedar over a fire and make a lot of smoke because it’s the green smoke that would help with the healing,” Black Star said.
Black Star moved away in 1942 and now lives in Oregon but she’s made a pilgrimage back to Comanche Peak almost every year since then. This year she stopped at the chamber office to buy a map because “I’m confused somewhat because the roads have changed and there’s so much traffic.”
Although the peak is closed to visitors, chamber president Claudia Davis made a few phone calls and arranged for Black Star to go up on the peak.
“I come back because it’s my roots,” Black Star said. “This is where I come from and what I am. I come back each year to visit the land and the spirits. I really come to regain my strength. I’m losing same of my strength now but if I come here, I go back feeling stronger”
During her hour-long sojourn on the peak, Black Star sat on the grass and smoked a ceremonial pipe. She prayed, sometimes struggling for words and frequently lapsing into Comanche, the tongue of her people. She talked of water running dawn the peak, like it was coming from a spring. She talked of caves- -some very large with pictures on the walls–that were very sacred places in which special ceremonies took place.
And, although she asked that the location of burial sites on the peak not be disclosed, she remembered saying prayers over the graves with her grandmother.
“They’re not marked and are covered over with grass, but I think about people going there and digging if they knew where they are,” Black Star explained as her eyes clouded over with emotion. “One of my grandmothers was killed at Pale Duro Canyon. A soldier ran his horse back and forth over her until she was dead. My grandfather was a Sioux–they said he was the nephew of Crazy Horse and that’s where I get my blue eyes from–was crippled there. The graves on Comanche Peak should be protected from the desecration that was done to Crazy Horse’s grave.”
Black Star recalled the hard times after her people were confined to the reservation in Oklahoma. “My grandmother was sent away and hid by her brother and didn’t go there,” Black Star said.
“My grandparents would fill the wagon with potatoes, dry corn and honey from the hives and take it to the family in Oklahoma. It seems they were always hungry. I’d be laying on a pallet at night and they’d talk about the wars. Some would be crying and if was scary–really scary for me. Those people would come here and go up an the sacred mountain for the ceremonies, but they were always afraid that they’d be taken back
“Some of our young people are really angry about what happened to us, but one thing my grandfather taught me is you don’t judge other people and no good comes from anger. He taught me to control temper and fear because they weaken you. We can’t live in the past.”
Black Star feels only sadness that her people and the whites couldn’t come together and make agreements without killing each other, but she’s proud of her heritage.
“When people ask me about my tribe and I say Comanche, they say, ‘Oh, the bad ones,”‘ Black Star said. She laughed and added, “But I understand. Even today, if someone tried to take my home away from me, I could get pretty hostile.” Black Star continues to carry on the traditions and ceremonies of her people. She cut branches of cedar from Comanche Peak to take home with her.
“There are a lot of powerful spirits up there,” she said. “To you who are living here now, it’s very important that you take care of it. For those of you who have raised children near the sacred place of Comanche Peak, if you keep it like it is, it will be like a magnate to bring your children and grandchildren home for many years to came.
“It’s such a wonderful feeling when you see it. It makes everything right.”