Letter Sparks Memories
By Betty Mae Jumper
Today, I sat in my office cleaning out papers. I saw many letters that came to me. Some telling me they are Indian and wanting to know how they can find people who might be related to them. Then other letters talking about wanting information of why and how Indians live and what they eat. Things of such and it goes on and on.
Then there are letters that give you encouragement about the things you do and write. When you get letters like this, it makes your day. One of those letters made my day. It was from the family of a man I met long ago. The letter made me remember my past.
When I returned from school to my people the only thing on my mind was to help them to face the new world we are stepping into. The reason I went to school was to learn how to cope with the outside world. When I was young it was difficult.
The older people in the Tribe would tell me that I was selling us to the white people. They said, "We don't need to change our lives. We are Indians. Our life is different and we live different ways."
Back then, my mother told me and taught me that we can't turn back. She told me that even our own people don't live the same as they did long ago. There is no more hunting and fishing. People don't find much food or berries in the woods as they used to. People are getting sick and children are dying with diseases such as chicken pox, measles, whooping cough and many more.
I knew that the people needed immunizations, which couldn't be done by the Indian doctors. Indian doctors are good, but they could only go so far.
A long time ago when I walked into the chickees where sick people were laying down or some sick babies were kept, I tried my best to make them go to the doctor. Many times I put them in my car and took them to white doctors miles back into town. If they couldn't go, I had penicillin that I gave to them if they had high fevers. It was a rough life.
We used to listen to the older people when I was a young person, which made it hard for me to stand and argue with them to seek modern medicine. I returned back to the people so many times that some began to believe in me because their children were getting well and so were the old people. Little by little over two years or so they began to have more faith in me, mostly the women.
During this time, I was working as a nurse in Jackson Memorial Hospital when they brought in an old medicine man. He fought the doctors and nurses. He had cancer and was operated on which made him very mad. He wouldn't do anything for them, not even take his medicine.
I was called to talk to him. I didn't know this man; he was from Trail and had lived only by the Indian way of life. His name was Osceola.
I walked up to his bedside. I touched his arm and said to him in Indian, "How you feeling?" He answered and said, "No good, they cut me up is the reason I am feeling bad all day, worse today." He was mad. When I stood beside him he looked at me and asked, "Do you work here?" I said, "yes" and told him who I was.
He said, "Oh, yes, I heard of you." Nothing bad, I hope, I told him. He kind of smiled. Then I said to him, "I'm not here to make you do anything" I told him I was there to help him any way I could.
Get me sofkee," he said in Creek. I said, "Do you talk Creek?" He said, "No." I said a few words to him and told him whenever someone comes, I'd send word to get some sofkee. He said, "Okay, I really like to drink it."
One afternoon a lady came to see the medicine man, so I sent word by her to ask of his kinfolks to bring sofkee that night. After all this, he became friendly with me. Some nurses asked how did you make him talk to you when he is so mad at us? I told them I was taught to meet older people with kind words, and this is what I did.
One week later he sent his grandson looking for me. When I went up to see him he smiled. I thought maybe someone done something and he didn't like it, but instead he said, "Remember you told me if you talked to the Heavenly Father, He would help you and make the hurting quit? Tell me more about it. I've been thinking about it. If I talk to the Father up above, that I might believe and don't hurt any more. Also, you said if things bother you and you're upset, tell him."
I said, "Ever since I was a little girl, without Him I wouldn't be where I am today." He lay there and seemed to think, "she's so young and yet telling me all this." Then he turned to me again and said, "Tell me more."
So I got the Bible that was in the hospital and read some to him and told him the best I knew how.
"How do people join and go on that road?" was his next question. I said, "I am not too knowledgeable, but we have preachers and they tell a lot more. I think Bill Osceola is your kin. He is my pastor."
I asked him if he wanted me to call Bill. The medicine man said yes, would I get him. So I went and called Bill, but no one was home. I went back and told him I can't get him, but there are white preachers and easy to get from the hospital. I said, "I can talk for you." He said, "Alright." So I went to the front desk and told them the Indian medicine man is requesting a preacher. I went back and told him they were trying to find one. A half-hour later a white preacher came, not knowing what to expect as he never knew Indians before.
I explained to him this is an old medicine man that never heard God's word, but he would like to hear from you. "Yes, yes," he said and got the Bible out and began telling him how Jesus loves everybody. We spent over an hour or so and he asked to hear more and more.
In the Indian language, he said, "tell the preacher I am ready." Then the preacher told him how to get saved and what to say. He did all this and after everything was said he lay there and seemed so relieved. He smiled at everyone that came to his room.
Later that night his kinfolk came to visit him. He was talking in a way in which they never heard him talk. He talked about what he heard and what happened to him. The visitors - old Jack Motlow and Mary Osceola and Bill Osceola's mother - couldn't believe what they were hearing from him. People began to come and see a change in him.
A week or so later, I went by his room and he was so glad to see me he had a big smile for me. I told him, "I won't be by this weekend, I'm off this weekend." He said, "Fine, I'll see you when you come back." So, I left that weekend.
This was the first Indian medicine man I ever gave advice to. The day I returned to the hospital, I went to the third floor and found an empty bed. He had left to be with the Father he found. I said, "Thank you to Jesus that he is well."
Many times I heard Bill Osceola preach about his grandfather who never heard God's word before, but heard them in a hospital. If this medicine man can find Jesus through God's word, you can too, Bill would say. It was his letter that sparked my memory.
Now, I think of all the things I did and went through - many things that were tough to do or say - though with God's word nothing is impossible. I read the letter again and it reminded me of that time so long ago. The important thing is the peace this old man found in belief.
I hope everyone takes the time to find Jesus before it's too late.