by Bob Sparrow
(As a refresher, as well as for those new to the blog, the links below are to the previous chapters of ‘The Tape’, an allegorical tale of searching, with cameo appearances from beyond from my dear departed friend, Don Klapperich
(Jan 2014) Chapter 1 ‘The Tape’ http://fromabirdseyeview.com/?p=2454
(Jan 2014) Chapter 2 ‘The Tape’ – Searching for Xoon http://fromabirdseyeview.com/?p=2500
(May 2014) Chapter 3 ‘The Tape’ – A Visit with Chief Chuckwalla http://fromabirdseyeview.com/?p=2776
(July 2014) Chapter 4 ‘The Tape’ – Oh Where the Trap Door Leads http://fromabirdseyeview.com/?p=2807
Chief Chuckwalla, with moist eyes, seemed a million miles away as he continued to stare out into the valley, trying to decide exactly where to begin to tell this story.
He finally began, “Everyone knows the story of slavery in America’s south, the slave traders gabbing black men and women from Africa and bringing them to America to sell; the cruelty that took place on the plantations and the attendant racism. But few people know of the slavery that took place right here long before America was ever colonized. It began when the Spanish conquistador, Cortez defeated the Aztecs in the early 1500’s which allowed the Spanish to rule what is now Mexico and the southwestern part of the United States for the next 300 years. The Spanish not only took our land, but they enslaved the Inviatim people to work it for them. The Spanish rancheros were the predecessors to southern plantations. They told us that our gods and beliefs were all wrong, that Christianity was the only true religion. In fact they used the word ‘Cahuilla’ to describe our tribe – a word that means heathen. We were told that we would suffer if we didn’t convert. And they made us suffer.
(Don: Ahhh, don’t ya just love organized religion?”)
The chief continued, “Those who either refused to work on the rancheros or refused to convert to Christianity were beaten, blindfolded, tied up and dragged behind horses to this place and imprisoned. Many of them died here, including my great, great grandmother.
“So those were their remains in the cells?” I said.
“No.” the chief replied, I could see he was struggling to get the story out. “My great, great grandfather, Palkara and their daughter, Meeka, managed to escape from this Hellhole. Several days after his escape, Palkara formed a posse and, now knowing the location of this secret underground prison, returned in the dead of night and attacked and killed the guards and freed hundreds of prisoners. Unfortunately he was killed in the attack. The Inviatim prisoners, who were released, moved south and established their village by what is now the Salton Sea, but at that time was a beautiful freshwater lake fed by the Colorado River.
“Meeka, who was only about 10 when she and her father escaped, grew to be a very independent and strong-willed woman, who was determined to find a way to get back at the Spanish for killing her mother and father. As she grew older, she would often returned to this place just to remind herself of what happened here and to keep her resolve for revenge. She ultimately decided that she was going to use this Hellhole to exact that revenge. She convinced a small but courageous group of Inviatim tribe members to join in her crusade.
“It was in the late 1700s and the white man was now just starting to push the Spanish and Mexicans out and take over more and more of the southwest region. Most, if not all, of the Spaniards who took the Inviatim’s land and imprisoned and killed their people were now dead or gone. But Meeka’s desire for revenge needed to be quenched. She painstakingly found the names of those leaders responsible for imprisoning her people and killing her parents. She then located their children, or children’s children, many of whom were still living in the area and were now adults. Systematically, one by one, she kidnapped and imprisoned them here, locked the place up tighter than a drum and left them to die. It is their bones that remain down there now.”
I sat silently for a long time, in awe of the story I had just heard and finally said, “That is an amazing story; so what happened to Meeka?”
To be continued . . .