Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Book Review: Two Leggings; The Making of a Crow Warrior

I know, this book was published in 1967 -- I never promised NEW book reviews, just book reviews.

Peter Nabokov writes excellent biographical and historical books on Native American culture. Two Leggings is a biography of one Crow warrior based on the field manuscript prepared by William Wildschut for the Museum of the American Indian. It's an excellent piece of writing, both for interest and for history's sake. I enjoyed it very much.

I like reading history from the perspective of the people themselves. If I want to learn about a culture, I want to learn about it from the folks living in it (even in hindsight) over folks in ivory towers telling me "how it is." The first book I read in this style that really galvanized my attention was Sun Chief, autobiography of a Hopi. The guy was irreverent, honest and lewd; as well as wise and of course full of mourning. It lit me up for this style of historical writing.

As for Two Leggings -- I appreciated seeing into the Crow culture, because it is so different than most of the NA cultures I've studied so far. These folks were Raiders, pure and simple. They hunted and followed buffalo, but they were very directed (at the least, the main character was very directed) toward warfare and raiding.

Seeing various ceremonies I half-recognize from my own life (I participate in many Lakotah ceremonies and have for many years) used to hunt down and kill enemies or steal their horses is a real mind bender. It shows the "practical" side of the mysticism, as well as the fact that it wasn't always used for self and humanities' spiritual betterment. It is an excellent way for me to get some perspective on my own studies and personal history.

For folks without this direct connection to the material, this is just a rousing read about a young warrior who wants nothing more than to be raiding constantly. He's obstinate and doesn't listen to his elders until eventually, and inevitably, life shows him that he aught to.

In the end, of course, everything goes south. The Crow are one of the tribes that thought of the white man "enemies of my enemies are my friends." They contributed scouts for the cavalry, even for Custer. They expected to be treated fairly for their help, and of course weren't. The book doesn't dwell on the years of decline, it's entirely about this one man and his life and life stories. I highly recommend it to anyone who has interest in history of the U.S. West, Native American history, or Native American spirituality.


Trappin' Pat said...

Hey I read his other book "Lolita!" Oh, wait wrong Nabokov. BTW this month's national geo has a good article on the Jamestown settlers and the Powhatan. I learned that Honey Bees, Earthworms, and Malaria were imported from the old world (and their impact on the Indians).

Bpaul said...

I saw that article on the cover of National Geo, I have been meaning to get it. Thanks for the reminder.

Yeah, regarding Lolita, different Nabokov LOL.