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Pretty-Shield: Medicine Woman of the Crows…
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Pretty-Shield: Medicine Woman of the Crows (Bison Book S.) (original 1932; edition 1974)

by Frank Bird Linderman

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200398,662 (3.88)8
Pretty-shield, the legendary medicine woman of the Crows, remembered what life was like on the Plains when the buffalo were still plentiful. A powerful healer who was forceful, astute, and compassionate, Pretty-shield experienced many changes as her formerly mobile people were forced to come to terms with reservation life in the late nineteenth century.   Pretty-shield told her story to Frank Linderman through an interpreter and using sign language. The lives, responsibilities, and aspirations of Crow women are vividly brought to life in these pages as Pretty-shield recounts her life on the Plains of long ago. She speaks of the simple games and dolls of an Indian childhood and the work of the girls and women--setting up the lodges, dressing the skins, picking berries, digging roots, and cooking. Through her eyes we come to understand courtship, marriage, childbirth and the care of babies, medicine-dreams, the care of the sick, and other facets of Crow womanhood. Alma Snell and Becky Matthews provide a new preface to this edition.… (more)
Member:desertiris
Title:Pretty-Shield: Medicine Woman of the Crows (Bison Book S.)
Authors:Frank Bird Linderman
Info:University of Nebraska Press (1974), Paperback
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Pretty-shield: Medicine Woman of the Crows by Frank B. Linderman (1932)

  1. 00
    Pajaros de Fuego, Los (Spanish Edition) by William Camus (Lucy_Skywalker)
    Lucy_Skywalker: A few tales in Camus' collection belong to the Crow people.
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My mom got this book when she was in college, and I read it when I was very young. I loved it so much, that I still have that copy and have read it about a dozen times! Something about Native American History calls to me. It always has. (No one has noticed that many of my books have Native Americans in them, have they?) Perhaps it is the need to connect with my heritage, perhaps it comes from growing up in Montana, so close to the reservation. Maybe it is my Underdog complex, I don't know.

But this book is an amazing view of Native Americans. It not only shows the culture and history, but how that changed with being forced to live on the reservation. It is not about legendary characters, or massive game changing events (though they do briefly discuss her memories of some events that may not be big in the collective memory of Native American history, but were catastrophic for this tribe.)

Pretty Shield focuses on the every day, and makes it beautiful. She shares stories of her youth, stories of her People. It is simple, elegant, and enlightening. I am sure I will read it again soon. ( )
  HeidiAngell | Jul 29, 2017 |
Pretty-shield is Linderman's account of his visits with the Crow elder of that name and the conversations they had through finger signing and an interpreter. He had recently published the memories of a Crow chief and was interested in women's stories. Pretty-shield promptly obliged. Besides many interesting stories about her childhood games, there is a lot of interesting information about Crow culture and life as nomadic bison hunters. There is also a chapter dedicated the stories her husband told her about the Battle of Little Bighorn, which he survived while serving as a military scout. But my favorite part was the banter between the Linderman and Pretty-shield. You can tell that she was one tough lady and that the author really comes to like and respect her.

Overall an excellent work that opens a window on traditional Crow life and especially the lives of women. Highly recommended for those interested in Native American history and customs, the Crow Nation, Montana, or women's lives in other cultures. ( )
  inge87 | May 24, 2016 |
The remarkable story of the early days of reservation life, the resistance of white encroachment and the latter days of freedom upon the Great Plains has been told many times and in many ways. The way it was for each of the Plains tribes has been recounted by their chiefs, medicine men and warriors time and time again. Seldom has the woman's viewpoint or experience been shared. I think this is largely because no one asked but it is also because of the humble attitude of native women at that time. The author of this book, Frank B. Linderman, says as much in the forward to this book. "I have found Indian women diffident, and so self-effacing that acquaintance with them is next to impossible. Even when Indian women have sometimes acted as my interpreters while gathering tribal legends they remained strangers to me."

Pretty-shield: Medicine Woman of the Crows, originally published in 1932 under the title Red Mother, is the story of one elderly woman of the Crow or Absarokee Nation. After having much association with the Plains tribes for over forty-six years, Linderman was pleasantly surprised when Pretty-shield one day consented to be interviewed by him through an interpreter and also using sign-language so that he could write about the Crow female experience.

Frank Linderman was a trapper, hunter and cowboy who later became a writer and anthropologist. He lived among the Crow as well as among other Montana tribes throughout the latter part of the 19th century and into the early part of the twentieth century. He was extremely adept at the use of sign-language which earned him the name Sign-Talker among the Crows.

In relating Pretty-shield's story, Linderman has done a good job of keeping himself and his opinions out of the narrative, an especially difficult thing to have done, considering the influence of his gender and his race at the time he was writing. There are a few minor examples of condescension on his part, in particular with reference to a black former slave living on the reservation at the time of his interviews. He, at times, seems to be "humoring" Pretty-shield but I think this is due more to the fact that she is elderly and not so much to the fact of her race or gender or the veracity of her account. He conduct's himself with respect throughout the process. For the most part Linderman's presence as the interviewer is seen only when he asks a question to prime the pump of Pretty-shield's sharp and colorful memory. Generally, he needs only to ask her a simple question like, "How was it when a new baby was born" and Pretty-shield's reply comes flowing out with abundance of fascinating and to me, endearing personal detail. Her candor and her spirit are refreshingly vivid in this account of her life and that of the female experience, in general, among the Crows.

Pretty-shield was a medicine woman or healer. From her account, I think this is due more in part to her age, her intelligence, strength of will and self-determination than to any specific training or initiation specifically for that role. She remembered the old ways at a time and in a place where so many had forgotten and therein was her strength and her distinction. Among a society that was decidedly dominated by men, Pretty-shield, throughout her life and into old-age, was a feisty woman who knew her own value and equality and that of women in general. She often spoke to the issue of male chauvinism in her accounts although always in a kind of side note to her tale. For example, in recounting the tale of a brave woman who fought against the Lakota on the Rosebud when General Crook led his troops and Crow scouts against Crazy Horse she says, "Ahh, the men did not tell you this but I have. And it's the truth. Every old Crow, man or woman, knows that it is the truth. I am sure that your friend, Plenty-coups, has told you only the truth. But if he left this out he did not tell you all of the truth. Two women, one of them not quite a woman, fought with Three-stars, and I hope that you will put it in a book, Sign-talker, because it is the truth. Interestingly, the woman "not quite a woman" that Pretty-shield refers to in this passage is a lesbian that she talks about at some length in her account of the battle on the Rosebud.

The book contains many, many interesting stories from the life of Pretty-shield including courtship and marriage customs, childbirth, child-rearing from infancy to teens, ceremonial practices, hunting and gathering, food preparation, kinship etiquette, setting up a lodge and medicine, both spiritual and physical. We learn about the misery and death that came to the Crow people as a result of white man diseases like small pox for which they had no resistance or real understanding. Pretty-shield shares some of the most detailed accounts I have ever read about the day to day activities of aboriginal people. Her account also has elements of tribal myth and "grandmother tales" or teaching tales. Particularly fascinating to me are her accounts of dream tales. From the Native American perspective that Pretty-shield conveys it is wonderfully difficult to separate the dreamer's vision from the events in mundane reality, so closely attuned are she and her contemporaries with the Otherworld, so nimbly do they traverse the bridge between the two worlds.

Many accounts are related about the buffalo hunts and the fights with the Crow enemies, in particular against the Lakota. Her old contempt for the Lakota is expressed time and time again even though she acknowledges that all Indians became as one under the hard hand of the United States government and after the disappearance of the buffalo. I found it interesting to have this perspective on the Lakota from one who once considered them enemies. It helped me to know the Lakota people that much better.

The book ends with a fascinating account of the Battle of the Little Big Horn where her husband, Goes-ahead, fought alongside Custer as one of his Crow scouts. Goes-ahead along with two of his relatives fled when it became evident early on that Son-of-the-morning-star (Custer) was on a destiny journey to his own death. As Pretty-shield puts it, "But Son-of-the-morning-star was going to his death, and he did not know it. He was like a feather blown by the wind, and had to go. The soldier chief wanted to fight. He had to die. And this made others die with him.

As a grandmother, Pretty-shield is adept at keeping her emotions sublimated so that the truth of her memories can be preserved. She has lived long enough to be able to refrain from a lot of the judgment and outrage of a youthful mind and instead relies upon a certain resignation and detachment. She looks back with wistfulness while looking forward to the future her grandchildren will live. "The happiest days of my life were spent following the buffalo herds over this beautiful country. My mother and father and Goes-ahead, my man, were all kind, and we were so happy. Then, when my children came I believed I had everything that was good on this world. There were always so many, many buffalo, plenty of good fat meat for everybody. I have not long to stay here. I shall soon be going away from this world but my grandchildren will have to stay here for a long time yet. I wonder how they will make out."

I enjoyed this book very much for its unique perspective and because of the personality, humor and wisdom of Pretty-shield herself. Even though it is filtered through the writing of a white man from another time, Pretty-shield's voice is strong, her memory is sharp, and her story is unforgettable. ( )
1 vote Treeseed | Feb 19, 2008 |
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Frank B. Lindermanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Pretty Shieldmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Matthews, BeckyPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Snell, Alma HoganPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stoops, Herbert MortonIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
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Dedicated to my grand-daughter,
Sarah Jane Waller
First words
I was kindling a fire in an old-fashioned cannon stove occupying a corner of a room in the unused school building at Crow Agency when Pretty-shield entered with her interpreter, Goes-together, wife of Deer-nose, the Indian Police Judge.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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originally published as Red Mother
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Pretty-shield, the legendary medicine woman of the Crows, remembered what life was like on the Plains when the buffalo were still plentiful. A powerful healer who was forceful, astute, and compassionate, Pretty-shield experienced many changes as her formerly mobile people were forced to come to terms with reservation life in the late nineteenth century.   Pretty-shield told her story to Frank Linderman through an interpreter and using sign language. The lives, responsibilities, and aspirations of Crow women are vividly brought to life in these pages as Pretty-shield recounts her life on the Plains of long ago. She speaks of the simple games and dolls of an Indian childhood and the work of the girls and women--setting up the lodges, dressing the skins, picking berries, digging roots, and cooking. Through her eyes we come to understand courtship, marriage, childbirth and the care of babies, medicine-dreams, the care of the sick, and other facets of Crow womanhood. Alma Snell and Becky Matthews provide a new preface to this edition.

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