THE SEVEN VISIONS OF BULL LODGE AS TOLD BY HIS DAUGHTER GARTER SNAKE, gathered by Fred Gone, edited by George Horse Capture. Originally published by Bear Claw Press, Ann Arbor: 1980; paperback reprint University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, 1992. 125 pages, preface, map. $8.95. 0-8032-7256-1
The story of the recovery of this important book is in a way as fascinating as the story of A'aninin (Gros Ventre) spiritual leader Buffalo Bull Lodge (1802-1886) told by his daughter, the Pipe Child, Garter Snake (1868 - 1953). Trying to retrieve a destroyed history, Horse Capture found a reference to a 1930's WPA Writers project, in which tribal member Fred Gone had been supported as a writr, to record the history of the last pipe keeper, Bull Lodge, as told by his daughter before her death at 86.
After considerable efforts, Horse Capture is able to repeat the 7 visits Bull Lodge made to 7 high buttes in Montana to pray for the visions which guided his life. Bull Lodge was a well-known healer, and the last sacred powers keeper of the feathered Pipe of the tribe. Horse Capture tells of his own attempts to get this and other tribal materials reprinted and circulated among the people of his tribe, and to start a tribal museum, to make available to the youth their own cultural and historic heritage. He mentions his reluctance to say much about the WPA tribal writers' projects which preserved tribal personal accounts of history that could still be recorded in the 1930's and 40's. "If you look around, you see countless books on the American Indian. But do the Indian people really benefit from any of them? It is doubtful. "
In this book, retrieved first for tribal people, and second for its sales contributions to scholarship funds and funds to restore more of the robbed and scattered cultural materials, is told the story of a sacred life. Garter Snake memorized the stories her father told, and was an excellent observer of the ceremonial and healing events at which she herself, as Pipe Child, was present, including causing storms and stopping them, which Bull Lodge did on occasion. Although he was a noted warrior and political figure, this book is his story of a life devoted to the sacred. It is told, gathered, and edited by Native people of the tribe, an excellent model of what can be done by Native people working together, even when th work is done decades apart. Horse Capture, in his introduction, tells also of reprinting and making available to tribal members a dictionary of the language and one history of the people. He is seeking to create a tribal museum also.
One hopes that more money becomes available for illustrated works that preserve and present those parts of the culture that have ben stripped away from the People of the White Clay. In particular, there is no mention by anyone involved with the book of the whereabouts of the Feathered Pipe. Even though according to its own prophecies about itself, Bull Lodge was the last recipient of its sacred powers, one wishes it would be returned to its tribe from wherever it now is, if -- as I guess from lack of any mention of it after Bull Lodge's death -- it has probably been taken for a museum or collection somewhere. The book is highly recommended; its purchase will help to rebuild the nearly-destroyed Gros Ventre or A'aninin culture, but it is also a well-assembled, unified story of a spiritually interesting life, authentically told by Native people for Native people. Reviewed by Paula Giese
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Native American BOOKS, text and graphics copyright Paula Giese, 1996
Last Updated: Wednesday, April 03, 1996 - 6:00:30 AM