A Change in Government
by Kat Beyer
There was a little stir among the people in the longhouse when Seven Fights came in; "they didn't expect you," whispered her brother with approval. As if propelled by the murmuring air, a solarbot swished over to her and blinked its one eye suspiciously, then revolved and shot upward and away into the blackened roof beams.
"Did that thing just moon me?" She whispered back.
"It's decided you're safe." He chuckled. "The council's about to find out different."
He led her to a place against the southern wall, where the other speakers waited. Someone passed a plate full of corn scones, croissants, sesame balls, and five other kinds of snacks she couldn’t name. A French delegation was speaking, so she had to keep her eyes and ears on the Onandaga translator.
"White guys are all the same," she heard someone mutter behind her. "The only way to keep a treaty with them is to make sure you have enough ammunition."
"And vaccine," somebody whispered back at him. An old woman turned her head, slowly, and they both went quiet.
After the French were finished, the Speaker slammed his staff down and looked at her, and she realized with a shock that that was all the introduction she was going to get. She stood up and walked to the center of the dirt floor.
"Grandmothers and grandfathers," she began, facing the elders sitting against the East wall, her throat dry. "Guests of the Seventeen Nations," she added, turning to the delegations from Paris, Beijing, Cairo, and Harare. "Fellow sachems of the Haudenosaunee—" she went on, before her voice was drowned in the roar of surprise that had accompanied the words "fellow sachems." They hadn't heard, then. She waited until they fell silent.
"I come before you as the newly chosen Sachem of the United Tribes of the Southwestern Deserts. Among my people, it has always been considered strange that the women of the League choose the leaders but are not the leaders. Therefore they have sent me, in token of this time of change."
This time the roar in the longhouse seemed to take on a variety of textures—the roughness of anger, the high pitch of delight, all mixed together. She stood still, looking straight into the eyes of one grandmother who sat against the wall, gazing at her and smiling faintly. "This is how it starts," she thought.