Brings Back The Past

Sometimes when you are attending an event like an Indian powwow you observe a participant that is so perfectly matched to the event, it is like time travel. Such was the case at the Shoshone/Bannock powwow in Ft. Hall, Idaho. This man so epitomized the spirit of the warriors of old that he seemed to be a conduit between the past and the present. One could easily believe that he was riding out of his camp that morning over a hundred and fifty years ago and rode right into this gathering today to the amazement of both him and ourselves.

He rode in on the tail end of the parade as one of the last members of the procession and as he appeared time seemed to stand still. It was as if he had just stepped through a portal from the past and found himself in the strangest of circumstances. He rode at the crowd brandishing his lance. He yelled in his native language, he chanted, he swung his horse around in circles lest anyone try to sneak up behind him. And people believing that they were seeing someone unbound from modern conventions scrambled out of his way. His actions appeared to be those of a mid-1860’s warrior rather than someone participating in a parade at a modern-day powwow.

It was a spectacular presentation of a person completely in touch with his history, his culture and the spirit of the event. It was as if he were chosen to be the one that Brings Back The Past.

Fights Not The Sun

Up on the Wind River Reservation where the Shoshone Arapaho hold their summer Powwow at the end of June the sun burns bright in the afternoon sky. The dancing has been going on for hours and it is nearing the time where dinner is calling. The bleachers around the arbor are full with dancers catching their breath and enjoying a much desired rest and break before the evening dancing and festivities begin again.

The sun being down near the horizon has a few moments to shine in on the people at the far end of the eastern seats dazzling those seated there with its magnificent power. It is still hot and direct and blazing in that last bit of glory before ending this day.  It seems to want to challenge those resting to one last battle before sliding down behind the mountains, calling it an end to this days sunshine.

Those at rest know that this last battle will be short-lived, so it is better to yield this last challenge to the sun and simply accept the loving warmth it provides as soon twilight will be here closing down the day with its soothing blues and purples and final darkness.

This elder has faced this challenge before and knows there is no shame in submitting. This small defeat is welcome. Tomorrow is another day.

Looking To The Past Living In The Present

Dancing at the powwows is one of the most important parts of the event. It is a time for addressing the spiritual needs of the dancers, displaying the regalia that is most significant to them and for pure enjoyment in participating in their culture.

Painting one’s face had great cultural significance and has deep meaning depending on which aspect of the culture the wearer wants to honor or display. It ranged from the simplest single stripe to several different colors each representing a different meaning and is one of the most important ways of stating their individuality.

This image of Raul Figueroa was made at the New Beginnings powwow held in Denver, Colorado in early May 2016. It is part of an ongoing project titled “Modern Portraits of North American Indians”, and is a celebration of the continuance of the Native American culture as it is being presented at this time in our society.

What’s The Worst That Can Happen

Yellowstone National Park

“Come On let’s do it.”

“Leave me alone Earl.”

“Come on boo, it’ll be cool.”

“No, You always do this. And I catch it big time because I listened to you. No, not after last time.”

“Come on… She’ll have forgotten all about that, it was days ago.”

“Yeah right she doesn’t forget anything.”

“What about that time she left us up in the tree all night. She forgot which one she sent us up.”

“She didn’t forget you doofus. Old Split Tooth was coming around. If you remember, you still got the marks on your butt where he tried to catch you. You were squealing pretty good if I remember right. He fell asleep right at the foot of the tree all night. Mama had a cow until he left.”

“Well that was a little serious. She won’t remember this because it’s small stuff. Mama don’t sweat the small stuff.”

“Just like she didn’t sweat the small stuff when you thought it would be funny to see how many nipples you could get in your mouth at one time. She carried you around by the scruff of your neck for two whole days. The skin on your neck is just now looking normal.”

“That was then this is now. I was younger and slower then. Let’s do it it’ll be fun. You bite her on that spot by her tail that she licks all the time and I’ll jump on her face and hold my paws over her eyes. She won’t even know it was us I bet. Then we’ll hide behind this log. Get ready and bite her. Come on, what’s the worst that can happen.”

We Need To Talk

Does this picture make my ears look big? Click to see more

Listen we need to talk. It’s about this clock thing, the setting it back an hour that you guys do every year when it starts to get cold. I know I’ve heard some humans talking about it as they walk by. How it makes it dark at 3:30 in the afternoon and it’s still dark when you get up in the morning. It really causes us a problem. See it doesn’t matter to us what your clock says. We get up when it’s light and we go to bed when its dark. It’s an agrarian thing. Unless of course we ‘ve been eaten by something during the night, then all bets are off.

I’ve got kids, three of them. Solenoid, Nodule and Edna, the triplets. Yeah I know, I was lucky, but even so that’s the last time I’m going out with that smooth talking buck from Loveland. The point is though, they’re all just one year old and don’t have the brains god gave a toaster, but they’re good kids. The problem is now that it’s night way early for you folks, you’re driving in the dark earlier, the visibility is dorked, and my goofy half-witted kids are standing on the side of the road, in the road, in the ditch ready to dart out whenever a synapse fires in their tiny little brains and you’re tooling along thinking about dinner or whatever and there’s my little ones in your lights.

Yes, the obvious answer is “Hey! don’t stand in the road.” There is an answer for that and it’s a function of what makes us Mule deer. We’re prey animals. We exist to feed other animals up the food chain. Cougars, they’re the really mean ones, Wolves, not too big a problem unless you live in Yellowstone, Wild dogs, a problem anywhere, and unfortunately you guys. Yes I know, you don’t start home with the idea of hunting and killing us, or even hitting us for that matter. Many of you don’t want to, just because of issues with your insurance companies. But because we are prey animals the safest places at night or the edge of it, dusk, are open spaces like meadows, those flat grassy places behind high schools with all the white lines on them, yards, yards are nice, and the open areas along the roads you guys use to get where you’re going. Shoulders, verges, bar ditches, medians, berms, especially at night, that’s when the creepy things are out to get us so it’s safer to be somewhere where we can see for along way.

I’ve been asked “Why then, do you run into the path of the oncoming traffic, I know you said your kids are dumb, but wouldn’t it be better instead to race back into the shadows of the forest, eh?”. Therein lies the very answer to that question. The forest isn’t safe at night. Safe from you maybe but not from the dark evil things that like to eat us. Some of you have also driven into the forest with what I believe has been the express notion of getting us, and if all those trees hadn’t stopped you, you would have. I don’t why you do that. The end result is still a broken vehicle and the same insurance issues, but you’re the smart ones, so we have to defer to your ultimate wisdom.

My little ones had a near death experience the other night by running out in front of this 18 wheeler. Luckily the driver was able to lock it up and not hit them. I asked them why they did that and their answer was, “the other side of the road was the only thing they could see in all that bright light so they went for it.” We don’t have the ability or the spatial recognition to judge the relative speed of an oncoming vehicle, especially in the dark, so our threat assessment is all screwed up and we become 100 lbs. of ground round before we can get out-of-the-way.

What’s the answer? Simple. Kill all the cougars, wolves, bears, and wild dogs so we can stay back in the woods. That would be cool. If that doesn’t work for you, slow down. Watch for those deer on highway signs. Did you know they were put there because a deer was killed there. We’re creatures of habit. One of us getting taken out doesn’t change the fact that we’ve been using that crossing since before a road was there.

Yes I’ll talk to the kids again. Nodule shows some promise, but the juries still out on Solenoid and Edna, so I don’t hold out much hope. But I will try. Meanwhile put yourself in my place. Cougars and wolves on one side. 3000 lb. unyielding metal monsters that wouldn’t recognize a Mule deer if it slammed through their radiators. Give us a break please. Seeya in the Spring when they put the clocks back to normal. If we make it. Ciao

Half Yellow Face

Half Yellow Face  (or Ischu Shi Dish in the Crow language), (1830? to 1879?) was a distinguished Crow Warrior who is probably best known for his role as one of the six Crow scouts serving with General George Armstrong Custer and the 7th Cavalry during the Battle of The Little Bighorn. He was attached to Major Reno’s force and thus survived the battle. Due to an earlier death than the other five remaining scouts, White Swan, White Man Runs Him, Hairy Moccasin, Goes Ahead, and Curly, he is the least known member of the Scouts even though he was a “pipe-carrier” and believed to be the leader of the scouts due to his prestige, experience, and age. He led a fascinating life and if you consult Wikipedia and search for Half Yellow Face you will find an extensive history and links to other sources of information describing him and his life.

The photographic image above is of a modern Crow warrior wearing the regalia of Half Yellow Face at the gathering of the Crow tribe called Crow Fair. It has been enhanced to show the power, mystery and honor that is still attributed to this hero of the Crow tribe to this day.