Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A Review, Red Cloud, A Lakota Story of War and Surrender

A Review, Red Cloud 
A Story Of War And Surrender
By Dakota Wind
Bismarck, ND (TFS) – “I was born a Lakota and I have lived as a Lakota and I shall die a Lakota,” said Red Cloud. So opens S.D. Nelson’s Red Cloud: A Lakota Story of War and Surrender, a first-person narrative of the Lakȟóta leader Maȟpíya Lúta, Red Cloud, and the history of his people before his birth, through his life, and death in the confines of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in what became South Dakota.

Similar to Nelson’s Sitting Bull: Lakota Warrior and Defender of His People, Nelson tells this story by rendering a beautifully and fully realized world in the historic Plains Indian style of art reproduced here as though on a ledger book.

Red Cloud’s story breaks down the complexity of inter-tribal conflict, and the great struggle for resources and tribal sovereignty on Makȟóčhe Wašté, the Beautiful Country (Great Plains; North America). The two Fort Laramie Treaties are touched on, an agreement between nations, and how both were broken by the United States.

Red Cloud’s War is retold with this new pictography, and first-person narrative. The evolution of Plains Indian warfare grows from personal conflict and honor to organized military strategy. Red Cloud’s War is one of the wars the United States lost, a concession of the war was that the Lakȟóta shut down the Bozeman Trail and retain control of Powder River Country, but this was short-lived.

The decision for Red Cloud to sign the 1868 Fort Laramie must have caused a great internal struggle for the Lakȟóta leader and the people who followed him. The first-person narrative captures this struggle, “For the sake of my own people, those who followed, me, I accepted and signed the new treaty papers. But of course I did not represent the desire of all the people. Opinions were divided.”

The story of Red Cloud is taken up to his death, followed by a reflection on the journey of his people. Red Cloud’s story isn’t finished because his life came to an end, his story continues because his people continue.

There are books that deserve to be taken apart, but Nelson’s book literally deserves to be taken apart if only to frame the pages. Such pages are 4 (men astride their horses in water), 16 (meeting at Fort Laramie in 1851), pages 20 & 21 (the pipe dance), pages 29 & 29 (Red Cloud’s challenge of the Bozeman Trail), page 33 (a war party), and page 49 (the post-death reflection).

S.D. Nelson is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. His traditional name is Maȟpíya Kiŋyáŋ (Flying Cloud) He is an award-winning author and illustrator of numerous children’s books. His books have received many accolades, including the American Indian Library Association’s Youth Literature Award, a place on the Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List, and the Western Writers of America Spur Award. Nelson lives in Flagstaff, AZ. Follow him online at sdnelson.net.

Nelson, S.D. Red Cloud: A Lakota Story of War and Surrender. First ed. New York, NY: Abrams Books For Young Readers, 2017. 64 pp. $19.95. Hardcover. Photos, illustrations, timeline, notes, bibliography, index.

North Dakota Content Standards
Grades 4 and 8
Resources: 4.1.4; 8.1.2
Timeline: 4.1.5
Concepts of time: 4.2.2, 4.2.3, 4.2.4
People and events: 4.2.5
Colonization: 4.2.9
Expansion: 4.2.10
Physical geography: 4.5.3; 8.5.1
Human geography: 4.5.5, 4.5.6; 8.5.2, 8.5.3
Culture: 4.6.1, 4.6.2; 8.6.2
US History & Imperialism: 8.2.4, 8.2.9, 8.2.10, 8.2.11




Thursday, April 6, 2017

A Review: Sitting Bull, Lakota Warrior And Defender Of His People

A Review: Sitting Bull, Warrior & Defender
Beautiful Book About Great Leader
By Dakota Wind
Fort Yates, ND (TFS) – In 2015, SD Nelson published his Sitting Bull: Lakota Warrior and Defender of His People, a first-person historical narrative through the eyes of Sitting Bull. His people's struggle to survive manifest destiny in the late nineteenth century is told through historical photos and Great Plains pictography.

Nominally a children’s book, but much more, Nelson beautifully illustrates a carefully researched and composed historical narrative. Each page is a work of art rendered in the historic Plains Indian style on a ledger book background. Every piece of art is lovingly constructed with a contemporary feel without sacrificing style or story.

Nelson acknowledges the oral traditions for Sitting Bull’s childhood name, Jumping Badger, from the direct lineal descendant, the great-grandson of Sitting Bull, Mr. Ernie LaPointe.

Sitting Bull touches on the last greatest conflict in the American West, Little Bighorn. Nelson takes readers on the journey to Fort Walsh in Canada, where Sitting Bull and his people remained in exile for a few years until the overwhelming call to return home pulled the Lakota back to Missouri River country. Nelson thoughtfully reconstructs the “surrender” of Sitting Bull at Fort Buford, which was actually an exchange of one lifestyle, a hunter-gatherer one, for another, an agricultural one. Imprisonment at Fort Randall is mentioned too.

Sitting Bull’s time as part of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show is also touched upon, then Sitting Bull’s return to his first and last home on the Grand River, SD. Agent McLaughlin is rendered in a confrontation with Sitting Bull about the Ghost Dance, and Sitting Bull is simply but beautifully rendered as Ikčé (common) in wrapped braids and a robe.

Nelson brings Sitting Bull to a conclusion with the death of the great spiritual leader at the hands of his own people. Nelson illustrates Sitting Bull falling, but not quite on the ground. Two police officers are depicted firing at Sitting Bull in the side and head. The images are suggestive, not graphic in their depiction, truly rendered in the historic Plains Indian style of art.

Nelson’s book is a beautiful tribute to one of the great leaders of the Lakota people. His vibrant use of color enhances a traditional art. This isn’t a typical childhood read, and it shouldn’t be. This is based on a living, breathing first nation man and his struggle in the post-reservation era. If your bookcase has any work by Paul Goble, this one earns its place front and center on that shelf. Get it for yourself and your family if you love art and history.

S.D. Nelson is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. His traditional name is Maȟpíya Kiŋyáŋ (Flying Cloud) He is an award-winning author and illustrator of numerous children’s books. His books have received many accolades, including the American Indian Library Association’s Youth Literature Award, a place on the Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List, and the Western Writers of America Spur Award. Nelson lives in Flagstaff, AZ. Follow him online at sdnelson.net.

Nelson, S. D. Sitting Bull: Lakota Warrior and Defender of His People. First ed. New York, NY: Abrams Books For Young Readers, 2015. 64 pp. $19.95. Hardcover. Photos, illustrations, timeline, notes, bibliography, index.

North Dakota Content Standards
Grades 4 and 8
Resources: 4.1.4; 8.1.2
Timeline: 4.1.5
State Symbols: 4.2.1 (Western Meadowlark, Red Tomahawk)
Concepts of time: 4.2.2, 4.2.3, 4.2.4
People and events: 4.2.5
Colonization: 4.2.9
Expansion: 4.2.10
Physical geography: 4.5.3; 8.5.1
Human geography: 4.5.5, 4.5.6; 8.5.2, 8.5.3
Culture: 4.6.1, 4.6.2; 8.6.2
US History & Imperialism: 8.2.4, 8.2.9, 8.2.10, 8.2.11




Sunday, April 2, 2017

Grandmother Flower, First Flower Of Spring

The Prairie Crocus opened her petals as the sun broke through the overcast. 
First Flower Of The Spring
Grandmother Flower Returns

By Dakota Wind
Mandan, ND (TFS) – I awoke to the distinctive call of Tȟašiyagmuŋka, the Western Meadowlark, outside my window this morning. Last weekend I went out looking for what the settlers called the Pasque Flower, or the Prairie Crocus. The Lakȟóta have two names for the same flower: Hokšíčhekpa, or A Child’s Navel; Uŋčí Waȟčá, or Grandmother Flower. My search was unsuccessful until today.

I hiked on a trail located at a recreation area in the rolling hills of Heart River Country. The sky overhead was overcast with gray clouds and teased the possibility of rain. A light wind blew in from the west and picked the cold up off a lake yet frozen. Last year’s grass was matted from the weight of this winter’s snow; banks of snow lie scattered about the prairie steppe in protest of the coming spring. 


It's easy to see the Prairie Crocus against last year's brown grass.

I stepped off the trail and ascended the north face of a hill, stepping between brush and broken sandstone outcroppings, until I stood on the top. The scree of Čhetáŋ, a hawk, and the honking of a lonely Maǧá, a goose, echoed off the icy lake. I imagine their conversation for a moment, the solitary Maǧá honked, “Tuktél huwó?” and Čhetáŋ screed out into the sky, “WótA!” Maǧá asking where his flock was, Čhetáŋ replying that it’s time to eat.

Škipípi, Chickadee, flitted among the trees and brush whistling, “Alí,” an inquiry if spring has indeed arrived. Wakíŋyela, Mourning Dove, cooed an announcement to all that surely a rain was due. Ištáničatȟaŋka, the Horned Lark, sang out, “Optéptečela, optéptečela!” thinking that perhaps another snow was coming instead. Of all the birds to sing in the spring, it is Tȟašiyagmuŋka whos whistle rises above all, “Oíyokiphi! Ómakha Théča!” or, “Take pleasure! The new year [season] is here!” 

I had to manually focus my camera on the Prairie Crocus' golden heart. 

I reached the top of the hill and fell into step with another trail that took me along the plateau edge and straight to Uŋčí Waȟčá. Her purple robe is outstanding amongst last year’s brown grass and shattered sandstone. Last year’s prickly pear shown bright red against the grass, little bulbs of Missouri Pincushion sat in little round clumps, barbs from both still sharp, but it wasn’t cactus that brought me to the hills.

They say, a long time ago, that a young man went to pray on the hill at the end of winter. It was cold, lonely, and dark, and the young man drew his robe tight about himself. As he did so, a little voice called out in gratitude for the extra warmth. Over the course of the young man’s time on the hill, the flower assured him that he would have his vision. The young man eventually left after his quest was finished, and the flower shivered in the cold. Creator looked down on the flower, and offered gifts of her choice. She wanted a robe of her own, and said that she enjoyed the colors of the mornings and the warmth of the sun. 

From the side, one can see the "fur" of the Prairie Crocus. 

Creator bestowed upon Uŋčí Waȟčá a purple robe and painted her heart gold. She’s the first flower of the new year and as the first moon passes, her robe opens less and turns gray. The first flower sings courage to all the other flowers of the new season and reminds them not to fear their time, but to rejoice because their spirits will go on to color the rainbows. Once in a while, however, the robe of Uŋčí Waȟčá is white, which indicates that a bison drew its last breath in that spot.

The urge to pluck the soft fuzzy flowers is strong, but I can’t take from the earth without leaving a gift in return, so I leave all the Uŋčí Waȟčá as I found them. Long ago, the Lakȟóta gathered and used the whole flower from root to petal in treating arthritis. Someday, as the pain increases in the knuckles of my hands, I may return for these gentle flowers. 

One of many Prairie Crocus growing on a south-facing bluff.

The sun broke through the clouds as I prepared to leave the south-facing hillside, and the flowers began to open. I snapped a few more pictures as I made my way back to the trail. A Kaŋǧí, or Crow, let loose a raucous laugh I felt was at my expense. I was dressed as though it were a summer day, and it was still spring. Kaŋǧí laughed out, “Kȟá!” as if to say, “[You] should have [dressed for the weather]!” I stood and stretched, stiff from the cold, and walked back to my car wishing for my coat.

I thought I was by myself this morning, but in the midst of creation, Makȟóčhe Wašté, the Beautiful Country, was laughter, whistles, and songs that filled the air, and even the wind let up when I passed by the frozen lake.