Life Within The Tribe


As stated in the introduction, the personalities of Anna and Sarah were switched in the film. Anna was actually very resistant to the tribe’s demands, and Sarah was very submissive and shy.

Sarah was the youngest (only 16 years old) and the first to be kidnapped. But the tribe that the story is built around was actually the  Cheyenne, not the Sioux– the Sioux were the people who initially captured Anna, and then later traded her to the Cheyenne.

After Sarah was brought to the tribe, she lived there for nearly a month, before Anna came along.  Life was hard by nature, having no in-town luxuries.   But the Cheyenne were very kind to young Sarah (especially the women), having felt sorry for her being taken from her parents and raped by her captors. They even gave her a nice dress to wear, which they had in their possession from a white settlement, as a token of their affection to the girl.

Around the middle of October, the Cheyenne crossed paths with a Sioux tribe, and 19-year-old Anna was traded to them. It is rumored that “Tokalah” (one of the Cheyenne chiefs) played a big hand in Anna’s trade, because he was quite enchanted when he first set eyes on her.

When the two young women met, Anna instinctively took on the role of “big sister” and set an example for Sarah, by being tough and resistant, all the time. At first, this angered some members of the tribe. In contrast to their treatment of Sarah, the tribe made Anna dress in Native clothing, as a way of forcing their will on her. But still, Anna continued to maintain her inner strength, and independence.

Being in the same predicament, the two women bonded quite deeply, and at first were allowed to converse together around the campfire. They were both given a tent to live in separately from the rest of the tribe, and were considered to be the soul “property” of a very brave worrier chief– characterized in the film as “Tokalah”.

After an entire winter with the tribe, Anna ad Sarah had given up all hope of being rescued, and began devising an escape plan.  As a survival method, many tribes cooked half of the food they harvested and hunted (meat, fruits and vegetables), but they dried the rest of it to survive on in the winter.  So Anna and Sarah began gradually stealing a large collection of the dried foods, as they would last a while and be light to carry.   Then they patiently waited for a chance to run away.

While they were biding their time, they minded the tasks and chores given to them (although Anna did not take the orders very easily).

One particular afternoon, a Cheyenne woman demanded that Anna help drive the ponies. When Anna refused, the Cheyenne woman struck her in the face, quite hard (portrayed in the film as “Minipi”). Anna then charged at the woman, who attempted to run away. But Anna ran her down and gave her a sound thrashing, while the other members of the tribe gathered around her, yelling out cheers of approval! The Cheyenne deeply admire bravery, so Anna’s courage and strength at that moment had earned her a lot of respect in their eyes.

Eventually, after more time had gone by, Anna and Sarah saw their big chance to escape, one night during a big pow-wow. They agreed to meet each other by a designated tree, after the tribe had gone to sleep.

When the time came, they gathered all the food they had collected, then met up and quickly stole away (on foot, not horses) into the dark of night– racing toward the government trail, like two frightened deer! They had only gone a few miles however, when they heard a low, muffled, rumbling sound– like distant thunder– that seemed to come from the trail just ahead of them. They listened, wondered, and then it suddenly dawned on the excited fugitives that a herd of buffalo were coming down the trail!

Knowing they would be trampled to death if they did not change their course, they sought refuge in a slough of tall grass. The herd took hours to pass, and their escape was delayed.

After the buffalo finally passed, the two women thought best to locate the trail before daylight. That way, they could resume their journey after nightfall the following evening. But as they started out again the next evening, and were passing down the trail, a gun shot was fired! The bullet went whizzing over their heads! Looking around, they discovered some Cheyenne men (Tokalah being one of them) in pursuit of them. At that moment, they knew there was no alternative, but to be marched back to their captive life.

On the return trip, they stopped to rest and the one of their captors fell asleep, with his revolver loose by his side. They were tempted to use it in their defense, but they thought he might be only pretending to sleep–testing them– and would kill them. Or that the other men were lurking near by.

As soon as they were returned, they were given double work loads to do, stripped of their privileges, and were no longer allowed to be near each other, or communicate. They were also watched constantly.

Eventually, after more time went by, things cooled down a bit in the tribe. The chief who managed the two women (Tokalah) had begun to lavish affections on Anna, and eventually proposed marriage to her. In most native American tribes, women are free to choose weather or not they marry a man. And Anna admitted to journalists that she accepted the marriage proposal of her own free will.

But the relationship was clearly not formed simply for politics, or for Anna’s protection, as Anna and the chief were clearly physically intimate. This was made apparent when Anna became pregnant with the chief’s child!

When journalists asked Anna about her Cheyenne husband, she stated,

“He would come in front of the warpath, bringing many things he thought would please me.”

Being the chief’s wife also meant a better life for Anna; she was now treated with great respect, and the Cheyenne women had to serve HER. Now she only had one responsibility, as a special request from her husband– all he asked of her, was that she tend to his horse whenever he came home.

Anna also said,

“I had begun to think MUCH of him for his kindness toward me…”

Of course, Anna would never out-and-out say that she “loved” the chief (mostly out of consideration for Mr. Morgan, her legal husband). But many people believed that her feelings for the chief were pretty obvious…

Eventually, Gen. George Custer and his soldiers, along with Anna’s brother, tracked the tribe down and located the camp, with the help of two captive Cheyenne women (which many believe is a bit hypocritical). Right away, they began negotiations to free Anna and Sarah. During a meeting with the Cheyenne men, Custer took 6 chiefs hostage (“Tokalah” being one of them), and threatened to hang them one by one, if the women were not returned.

The next day, Anna received word that there were two white men in the camp, who wished to see her. But, feeling distraught over the capture of her chief, she confined herself inside her tent and refused to come out and speak to them. Moments later, her brother Arthur stepped into the tent…

In the end, both women were delivered to Custer’s camp, on a single pony. Upon seeing his wife for the first time, Anna’s legal husband stated that he couldn’t even recognize her, because of the Native clothing and her “changed personality”.

A few months after the women were reunited with their families, Anna gave birth to the chief’s son, and named him Ira. The child became very ill at about the age of 3, and passed away. But according to the physician who treated the boy, Anna dearly loved Ira, and often remarked at how much he resembled his father.

Contrary to the film, Anna knew that Custer planned to exact revenge on the Cheyenne, but she never knew for sure what became of her chief, except for the claims made by Custer (which are recorded in the post “Custer Describes Tokalah?”, in the upper-right corner of the page).



2 responses to “Life Within The Tribe

  1. Ian

    May 4, 2009 at 6:53 am

    I know everyone who saw this movie wished there could have been a Happy Ending for Anna and Tokalah by Gen. George Custer just letting her stay with her Indian family that she had grown to love.
    But you’ve got to remember she still had her other husband Daniel Morgan who she was stolen from. Do you think any man would just give up finding the woman he loves?
    Daniel was not about to surrender finding Anna anymore then Tokalah was about to give her up to him!
    It was better for everyone especially the Cheyenne that she and Sara be reunited with their white families.
    Because more settlers were coming west to take their land they have lived on for centuries. As well as Soldiers to protect them and there were always Officers like Custer who were looking for an excuse to massacre a tribe of Indians and what better a reason then to rescue a white girl being held captive.

  2. Red feather

    April 9, 2013 at 4:44 am

    You must also remember even though some think it was better. Better for who her husband only he loved her probably ongor or her beauty. She did not love him. She fell in love with tokalah. A woman can not stay with a man if she does not love. If she does ,something dies inside her. I would not have married a man my brother picked for me. It’s love or nothing. And even if I lived back then my spirit and way of thinking would not be changed. To lose the man you love and the child you made together. Well it’s enough to drive any woman over the edge I think. Life is to short not to be happy.


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