Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Little Girl Who Rides the Train

In the Mescalero parade, I saw this banner: 

.... followed by this train float:

... and I was very curious.

The Little Girl Who Rides the Train

In Apache, Besh Binun gu deh' za yén roughly translates to "the little girl who rides the train." Besh is the Apache word for iron. In the Apache language, there was no word for train, so the closest approximation is "moving iron."

The Little Girl Who Rides the Train's personal story is an important part of Chiricahua Apache history. As a child, she was one of about 500 people who were domestic prisoners of war for 27 years, loaded onto cattle cars of a train and taken from Arizona to Florida (to start), as punishment for Geronimo's protracted resistance against what he believed to be the annihilation of his people. 

The Little Girl Who Rides the Train got her name because she was born in captivity (1906) and spent so much of her young life on trains, going from one prison hold to another.
She was also known as Edna Teenah Comanche. Ms. Comanche contributed her story to those of others in the telling of the Chiricahua imprisonment. Chiricahua Apache Enduring Power, by Trudy Griffin-Pierce, is one book that resulted from the oral histories. From Fort Marion [Florida] to Fort Sill [Oklahoma], by Alicia Delgadillo and Miriam A. Perrett, is another. Both of these are online in their entirety.

Geronimo and the Apache Resistance, presented by the PBS series, American Experience, tells the story of what happened before, during, and after the long political imprisonment.

The "little girl who rides the train" sounds like a light nursery tale, but it's really about a time of dislocation and uncertainty.

The Little Girl Who Rides the Train, Edna Teenah Comanche, died in 1999. Imagine. A woman who died less than 15 years ago had been a domestic prisoner of war in the United States for the first seven years of her life.

Because of a float on a parade, I learned all of this.

No comments: