Thursday, May 16, 2013


For those of you who haven't watched "Dances With Wolves" five times, "tatanka" is the Sioux (American) Indian word for the American Bison.  A  week ago I cooked some bison steaks, so this post is a bit in commemoration of that experiment.

My audio listening has taken me to Fanny Kelly's "Narrative of My Captivity Among the Sioux Indians".  If Fanny were alive today giving lectures and it became known to a PC gentlewoman, the gentlewoman would go into a red faced rage, followed by howling and screaming until she had successfully acquired Fanny's scalp.

Fanny was with her husband and daughter on a journey west when their wagon train was, um, greeted by Indians.  When the events were done, the men were dead except for those who somehow got away, and Fanny was taken captive with her daughter.  What the Indians couldn't take was burned.  Later her daughter was murdered and scalped.  Fanny had the relative good fortune to be taken by the chief, who was 75 years old, a cripple, and not in a position to molest her.  She initially looks forward to meeting the women, but then learns about Indian harem life where a strict pecking order is enforced through the most violent means.  The ordeal lasted 5 months and included severe hardship as the Indian group was chased by government soldiers and lost much of their provisions just as winter was setting in.

Fanny gives this analysis of the PC types from her day:

"I had read of the dusky maidens of romance; I thought of all the characters of romance and history wherein the nature of the red man is enshrined in poetic beauty.  The untutored nobility of soul, the brave generosity, the simple dignity untrammeled by the hollow conventionalities of civilized life, all rose mockingly before me, and the heroes of my youthful imagination passed through my mind in strange contrast with the flesh and blood realities into whose hands I had fallen.   ...   Truly, these pictures of the children of the forest that adorn the pages of the novelist are delightful conceptions of the airy fancy, fitted to charm the mind.  They amuse and beguile the hours they invest with their interest; but the true red man, as I saw him, does not exist between the pages of many volumes."

Here is a critique of the modern notion that the Indians treasured oneness with nature:

"Cruelty is inherent in them, and is early manifested in the young, torturing birds, turtles, or any little animal that may fall into their hands. They seem to delight in it, while the pleasure of the adult in torturing his prisoners is most unquestionable."

And here is another mix of political incorrectness:

"One fair little boy, who, with his mother, had just returned from Fort Laramie, came close to me.  Finding the squaw could speak a few words in English, I addressed her, and was told, in reply to my questions, that she had been the wife of a captain there, but that his white wife arriving from the East, his Indian wife was told to return to her people; she did so, taking her child with her.  The little boy was dressed completely in military clothes, even to the stripe on his pantaloons, and was a very bright, attractive child of about four years. 

It was a very sad thought for me to realize that a parent could part with such a child, committing it for ever to live in barbarous ignorance, and rove the woods among savages with the impress of his own superior race, so strongly mingled with his Indian origin."

We also get to learn about other juicy things, like the Dog Feast where Man's Best Friend became Man's Best Stew.  Then there was the scalp dance where Fanny was compelled to hold up a  stick with scalps on it while the warriors danced around it.  All through this, however, Fanny maintains a Christian testimony.

I certainly recommend this as a great read for anyone who feels oppressed by the world.


Rummuser said...

Off it goes into my to read/listen list. Thank you.

Rummuser said...

I downloaded it and am already fascinated! Thanks Looney.

Delirious said...

Wow that sounds fascinating! I do think that there were differences between tribes, but really they were a savage people by and large. I need another book right now. Whenever I start one that doesn't really interest me, I feel compelled to finish it anyway, and then just never have the desire to pick it up. I need to just move on and find one I like.