The cattle thief

They were coming across the prairie, they were
  galloping hard and fast;
For the eyes of those desperate riders had sighted
  their man at last--
Sighted him off to Eastward, where the Cree
  encampment lay,
Where the cotton woods fringed the river, miles and
  miles away.
Mistake him? Never! Mistake him? the famous
  Eagle Chief!
That terror to all the settlers, that desperate Cattle
  Thief--
That monstrous, fearless Indian, who lorded it over
  the plain,
Who thieved and raided, and scouted, who rode like
  a hurricane!
But they've tracked him across the prairie; they've
  followed him hard and fast;
For those desperate English settlers have sighted
  their man at last.

Up they wheeled to the tepees, all their British
  blood aflame,
Bent on bullets and bloodshed, bent on bringing
  down their game;
But they searched in vain for the Cattle Thief: that
  lion had left his lair,
And they cursed like a troop of demons--for the
  women alone were there.
"The sneaking Indian coward," they hissed; "he
  hides while yet he can;
He'll come in the night for cattle, but he's scared
  to face a man."
"Never!" and up from the cotton woods rang the
  voice of Eagle Chief;
And right out into the open stepped, unarmed, the
  Cattle Thief.
Was that the game they had coveted? Scarce fifty
  years had rolled
Over that fleshless, hungry frame, starved to the
  bone and old;
Over that wrinkled, tawny skin, unfed by the
  warmth of blood.
Over those hungry, hollow eyes that glared for the
  sight of food.

He turned, like a hunted lion: "I know not fear,"
  said he;
And the words outleapt from his shrunken lips in
  the language of the Cree.
"I'll fight you, white-skins, one by one, till I
  kill you all," he said;
But the threat was scarcely uttered, ere a dozen
  balls of lead
Whizzed through the air about him like a shower
  of metal rain,
And the gaunt old Indian Cattle Thief dropped
  dead on the open plain.
And that band of cursing settlers gave one
  triumphant yell,
And rushed like a pack of demons on the body that
  writhed and fell.
"Cut the fiend up into inches, throw his carcass
  on the plain;
Let the wolves eat the cursed Indian, he'd have
  treated us the same."
A dozen hands responded, a dozen knives gleamed
  high,
But the first stroke was arrested by a woman's
  strange, wild cry.
And out into the open, with a courage past
  belief,
She dashed, and spread her blanket o'er the corpse
  of the Cattle Thief;
And the words outleapt from her shrunken lips in
  the language of the Cree,
"If you mean to touch that body, you must cut
  your way through me."
And that band of cursing settlers dropped
  backward one by one,
For they knew that an Indian woman roused, was
  a woman to let alone.
And then she raved in a frenzy that they scarcely
  understood,
Raved of the wrongs she had suffered since her
  earliest babyhood:
"Stand back, stand back, you white-skins, touch
  that dead man to your shame;
You have stolen my father's spirit, but his body I
  only claim.
You have killed him, but you shall not dare to
  touch him now he's dead.
You have cursed, and called him a Cattle Thief,
  though you robbed him first of bread--
Robbed him and robbed my people--look there, at
  that shrunken face,
Starved with a hollow hunger, we owe to you and
  your race.
What have you left to us of land, what have you
  left of game,
What have you brought but evil, and curses since
  you came?
How have you paid us for our game? how paid us
  for our land?
By a book, to save our souls from the sins you
  brought in your other hand.
Go back with your new religion, we never have
  understood
Your robbing an Indian's body, and mocking his
  soul with food.
Go back with your new religion, and find--if find
  you can--
The honest man you have ever made from out a
  starving man.
You say your cattle are not ours, your meat is not
  our meat;
When you pay for the land you live in, we'll pay
  for the meat we eat.
Give back our land and our country, give back our
  herds of game;
Give back the furs and the forests that were ours
  before you came;
Give back the peace and the plenty. Then come Rate this poem:(0.00 / 0 votes)
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"The cattle thief" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2019. Web. 13 Nov. 2019. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/12615/the-cattle-thief>.

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