Error, group does not exist! Check your syntax! (ID: 21)

The old ones are leaving right and left

Here again is sad news from Northern Cheyenne. This week, another one of our advisors or ceremonial men made his journey to Next Camp. His name was Mark (Elk Shoulder) Wandering Medicine, age 78.
These remarks have been urged by Hugh Clubfoot, another of our ceremonial men, now in his eighties. “Hevesah’e” (my Cheyenne name), he said when calling to advise, “Maybe you could mention him in a good way. People should know about him.”
Very true.
Hugh was the first cousin of Mark. Tribal way, that is a brother, sacred bond. “Our grandmothers were sisters,” he explained. Good enough. Very close ties. They grew up together in that wild Birney country.
It is perfectly normal for Northern Cheyenne to have several different names during their lifetime. First, is your baby or teasing name; second, when going to school getting a ‘legal’ name, a first name followed by the last one which was given to your ancestors by the census counters, in his case “Elk Shoulder”.
Third, if you fast, do military service or something otherwise notable, another name might be appropriate. In Mark’s case he was advised to take the last name of Wandering Medicine. He could help people out through traditional ways.
His departure is another sad development for our people. He came from the Birney stronghold, where our most traditional Cheyenne live, at early age and throughout his life committed to the “old” ways, which required him to be a kind, generous and tolerant man. Those things generally don’t add up to being a rich man.
He was a member of the Native American Church (a Peyote Man); former Sun Dancer; instructor of Fasting at Bear Butte and other Sacred locations and had the right to run many types of sweats. It takes time and a unique opportunity to accumulate knowledge about such things.
He had his own opinions about stuff, often constructively critical of tribal government, reminding them in a reasonable way not to be “stingy.” That’s okay. Makes the discussion interesting. Sometimes, they did not like to hear that, but our people did, which means that he hit close to home.
He was married to a very nice woman for most of his life. Ilo also conducted herself in a very traditional, and quiet way, devoted to family, great cook, housekeeper and beadworker. Thus, a kind, generous lady. I recall her soft voice; how she always smiled; said she was feeling fine (which she wasn’t) and asked about my mother.
Sadly, she went before he did, leaving a huge gap in Mark’s life. Yet, he lived on for several years, kind of lonely in Birney, often visited by grandchildren and family. Yet, her absence made him sad.
I know a little bit about him because my youngest brother married one of his daughters. Mark took that young one to Bear Butte to fast, instructed him, gave him his Indian name (Blue Hawk). He tried to guide and encourage both my brother and his daughter to live together in a friendly way. The fact that it didn’t work out too well was not Mark’s fault. Sometimes the young ones find it hard to grow ears. Yet, that made us “connected” and he ever greeted me as a “sister,” high compliment amongst us.
In his later years – at least for the past two – Mark figured out the internet, posting daily comments, stories about the old days in Birney; the teachings, the thoughts, and ways to encourage one another. I, as one of many, looked forward to reading that every day. Those messages were funny, wise, and encouraging, even though he by then was reduced to a wheelchair. Yet, he did not complain, only asking from time-to-time if he might get a ride to the I.H.S. clinic. He did not doctor himself.
We will miss him, comforted that he now will be reunited with his beloved wife, brothers, parents, and other loved ones.
Sooner or later, we can all look forward to such joyous reunion.
Here is just another little nudge on the story telling idea, maybe even a book. We can’t wait much longer to write these stories down straight from the old ones’ personal perspective. There is no way possible to recreate another Mark Wandering Medicine. Although we had an appointment on April 13 to start that project, guess he couldn’t wait that long. Instead, he wanted to see Ilo again.
I can rob some of his thoughts from Facebook, but never again will there be an opportunity to catch his whole story the way he would have told it.
(Clara Caufield can be reached at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.