Regalia – Buffalo Headdress

Buffalo headdress NCIPA powwow 2016

Regalia is the term most used to describe the clothing and accessories worn by Indians during their ceremonies, competitive dances, and other events. It can be made of exclusively natural materials such as were used by their forefathers including feathers taken from birds caught by the individuals, leather from animals they killed themselves, beads obtained from traders or others, or any kind of item gathered and used by the individuals. This is often referred to as traditional regalia.

Other regalia may be made from newer less traditionally sourced materials such as modern manufactured beads and buttons or any type of adornment that can add to the look of updated regalia worn by individuals.

There is no right or wrong type of regalia worn and used today. In the past, new items such as small mirrors or new pieces of cloth obtained through barter or trade with other tribes or individuals before the trading of newer items began, were soon incorporated into regalia and displayed proudly. Todays use of new fabrics for streamers and accents worn in the regalia of Fancy Dancers today is not only considered acceptable but necessary for the look of the outfits worn by these dancers today.

Above is a beautiful example of a Buffalo headdress seen from the back so you can appreciate the adornments and beadwork of a spectacular example of craftsmanship and traditional styling. This was seen at the 2016 NCIPA powwow in Ft Collins, Colorado.

This image is a photograph processed in various types of software to bring out the beauty of the various items used in its creation. We’ll be bringing you further examples of incredible regalia in future posts.

 

2017 Summer Games Yellowstone National Park

Billy Lightpaw Middle weight contender for the Broad-jump – Summer Games Yellowstone National Park.

 

As long time readers of the BigShotsNow blog you know that every 4 years Yellowstone National Park holds the Summer Games in preparation for the Wildlife Olympics with entrants from around the globe. This year the games are being held in Yellowstone once again with venues at Gibbons Meadows, the Madison river, Hayden Valley, the LeHardy Rapids, the Lamar valley and the Blacktail Flats area.

This is always an incredible experience with visitors attending from all over the world. As usual most of the events are standing room only as tickets have been sold out for many of the big events for the last two years. However most events have roadside observation areas set up to accommodate the overflow crowds. Be prepared for Bear Jams, Wolf Jams, Buffalo Jams, Otter Jams and every other jam you can think of as the various contestants make their way to the different events, while those attending Yellowstone for the first time slam on their brakes, throw open all four doors where  applicable, and race out to greet and get their first up-close view of the different contestants, leaving their vehicles unattended and blocking the roadway. This impacts traffic bringing it to a standstill for hours. As this also usually results in the arrival of the First Responders stationed throughout the park to take care of the maimed and wounded that occur from way too close encounters with animals that are wild and have never heard of Disney, it takes awhile before the visitors cars can be impounded and hauled off to be shredded. Prepare for long waits depending on the popularity of the contestant being viewed.

This years games are truly spectacular with many new participants such as one of the real contenders in the light heavy-weight broad jump, Mr. Billy Lightpaw, here shown settling into his patented “Squat and Jump” starting position. Mr. Lightpaw also known as Billy the Bumper to his friends ,currently holds the amateur broad jumping record of 32′ 8″ set last fall at the pre-hibernation games outside of Ottawa and is considered to be a gold medal frontrunner. Notice the coiled spring like action of tucking his head in and rolling back on his powerful haunches prior to his launch. Simply incredible. This is why he’s a crowd favorite. This event has plenty of accessibility due to the wide open Hayden valley floor. Binoculars are highly recommended.

The Madison river will have a new event this year, in fact it’s the first time this event has been offered in the summer games and it is likely to be a huge crowd pleaser. It is the “Calf Drop” and it’s a doozy. There are no front-runners in this event due to the fact that only first time Buffalo mothers can enter. Those due to drop their calves during  the week of August 11th and August 22nd are automatically entered. As mentioned before there are no front-runners yet but the likelihood of twins and even in the rarest of circumstances triggering an automatic Gold medal, triplets, might be expected. There is a lot of interest in this event by the press and mothers around the world.

Another fun event for the whole family is being held at LeHardy Rapids this year. It’s the “Otter Fish Off'” and this event is one that ESPN has scheduled for prime time coverage. As you know from previous games this one is fast paced and exciting. Upstream at the top of the rapids, barrels of trout averaging 26″ to 41″ inches long and weighing up to 96 lbs.each are released to streak down the rapids where the contestants wait at the bottom. The Otter that gets the biggest fish with the least amount of personal  injury is scored on tenacity, conviviality, ferocity and good manners. This is a high interest event for the entire family and you may want to arrive a few days early to get a good seat.

The “Wolf Run” or “Elk Calf Take Down” is an event that is best watched on TV or the various Jumbo-trons set up along the highway as much of the action is out of sight due to the rugged terrain through the ponds and small streams in the heavily brushed area that is Blacktail Flats. This year we’ll have extra coverage as the various networks are employing their new “Wolf Drone” cameras which are able to follow the wolves as they run down the elk calves and drag them out of the buck brush where they like to hide. Odds on favorite this year is of course the Blacktail Flats Pack for their intimate knowledge of the area.

Gibbon meadows will again be the site of the contestants housing area, media outlets, Torch lighting, and the entrance and closing parades. A Special “I Paid A Lot Because I’m Special” Pass is needed to access this area. If you don’t already have one you might as well forget about it. There’s none left. Sorry. Seems like everybody is Special.

The Lamar valley is again host to one of the all time favorite events, “Buffalo Herding”. This event has been a staple of the Summer Games for as long as I have been making them up. It is not someone herding the Buffalo but instead the Buffalo proudly showing off their skill at being a herd member, their ability to ‘herd’ as it  were. There are synchronized marching exhibitions, where the different herds show off their ability to walk together with all four legs synchronized, which if you’ve never seen it before is mesmerizing. There is a herd bull “Bellowing” event where the different herd bulls get on opposite sides of the valley and bellow at each other until one runs away in shame. There is a new event this year where the herds travel along the valley floor with the newborns running alongside ( the little orange ones ) to see how long they can run with their tongues out. And last but not least the contest that pits the different herds against each other to show who can make the trip up the Gibbons Narrows to the meadows above the slowest. The resulting length of the traffic tie up from the buffalo jam decides the winner. Last years numbers to beat are eleven and a half miles and five hours to make the six-mile trek up from the bottom of the falls to the summer grazing. Everyone travels at Buffalo speed for this one.

These are just the highlights of the summer games there’s plenty more so start packing and head on up to Yellowstone for another amazing year of the Summer Games at Yellowstone National Park. We’ll look for you there.

Sees Himself

Tests of bravery come in many forms. There is a lot of pressure for a young man wishing to be seen as a man, or at least seen as older than his brothers who must  watch the pony herd instead of going into battle. His older brothers look at him and watch to see if he is ready. Is he strong enough to go along on a raid yet or does he need more time. He has practiced with his bow until he can hit anything in sight, he has made his own shield and done a vision quest. He has fasted. In his mind he is ready.

There has been constant talk of the blue coats entering the area of the Little bighorn river. The older braves have been continually riding in to talk with the elders after spying on the enemy, there is a steady rise of anticipation of what will surely be a big battle with the one they call yellow hair and the rest of the pony soldiers which has made the camp a beehive of activity. There will be much blood on the greasy grass. Tensions are high as squaws are getting their men’s battle gear out of the beaded deer hide cases they are stored in. The younger girls gathering the youngest together to keep them safe. Men are getting their ponies ready, applying paint on the flanks and withers, braiding feathers into their manes, slapping their handprints onto their necks, talking to them of the brave deeds they will perform. The younger boys excitedly riding around the pony herd keeping them in a tight bunch for when they are needed. Anticipation could not be higher.

For several nights this young warrior has had the same dream. He sees himself on his pony waiting near the edge of village to go out with his brothers. His job is to be one of the decoys that lures the first soldiers away from the village. His part is dangerous, the rifle of the soldiers can reach out a long way. His older brother has told him to lay low on the back of his pony, but to yell loudly and appeared scared so that the soldiers looking for an easy kill will follow them. It’s an important job and he is nearly bursting with pride to have been chosen.

He does not want to fail in his task and that is his biggest fear. To some how let down his brothers which is why he has not slept for more than a few hours each night. His dream comes whenever he closes his eyes but as dreams often do, the answer of his bravery is just out of his reach. So it is with some trepidation when the call comes to leap into action. He is certain he will brave but he is slightly worried that for some terrible reason he won’t be. In a few moments he and everyone else will know for sure. He sees himself and now is the moment of truth.

 

Misses His Friends

Young men and war. How glorious it is. Sitting around the campfire, hearing the elders talk about battles they had when they were young warriors. Riding out across the prairie with a comrade and speaking of brave deeds you would do if given a chance. Scalps you would take, coup you would count, enemies dying on your lance or from your arrows. The excitement, the stories to bring back to the lodge of your prowess in battle, the admiring glances of the young maidens. All this and more if you can only get into the next fight. How agonizing not to have participated yet and be a respected warrior.

Then it happens. You get your opportunity to wage war with your sworn enemy. In this case it is the blue coats that have been relentlessly entering your land, running off the game, killing anyone they see. They’re coming and it will be a big battle, the biggest anyone has ever seen. The biggest in the memory of even the oldest old man in the village. Bigger even than the old mans grandfather could have remembered were you able to ask him. All the tribes are joining together to take part in this exciting, exhilarating, awful, incredible magnificent event. The medicine men have been singing of visions they have had where the Greasy grass is covered with the dead, the women going from body to body making sure no one is alive. Guns, rifles, and pistols laying about for the taking. Reputations made, brave acts to sing about for generations. And you and your friends will play a part. You will  be the relentless, merciless warrior and be victorious in this battle just as you have dreamed of since you  were a child.

And then after a time filled with smoke and war cries, violence and death it is over. The Greasy grass is indeed covered with the dead just as foreseen by the visionaries and the spoils of war have been collected and it’s time for feasts and celebrations, and dancing and story telling, and a time to come down from that glorious battle high and look around you for your friends. That’s when you find that several of them are not at the celebration and never will be again. They’re among the dead laying in the Greasy grass. Killed by the enemy you were victorious over.

Suddenly in the aftermath of what was your greatest adventure you see that those friends that you rode with and boasted with and fought alongside of are no more. They are the same as the enemy now, lifeless and scattered across the land waiting for loved ones to come gather them for preparation to spend eternity in that other world where the dead reside. Songs will be sung about them that will live in the hearts of some for a while but the truth is they are gone forever now and will not share anything with you ever again. This death today is permanent. There will be more conquests and defeats for you to come, very likely more  of the latter than the former but those boyhood friends will not be a part of them. Now you think and mourn, the shine has gone off the day and in reflection you find that there is a high price to pay for glory. Perhaps too high but that’s something to think about later. His name tonight is Misses His Friends.

 

Hostiles!

click to enlarge

In our ongoing work of researching events that have taken place here in the West we have discovered a little known fact relating to the Battle of the Little Bighorn and it is nothing short of amazing. Although thousands of hours of research and numerous books have been devoted to the climatic events of June 1876 where General George Armstrong Custer led the valiant men of the 7th Cavalry into one of the greatest defeats in American history at the hands of the largest assemblage of Indians ever gathered, they missed one amazing fact.

That fact was there was an unknown photographer attached to the regiment to record the anticipated victory of the General in the expected upcoming battles with the various tribes. His name is unrecorded in the rolls of the members of the expedition so it is surmised that he must have volunteered to accompany them after the orders were cut for the forth coming action by Custer and the 7th. It is more probable that Custer met him and hired him out of his own pocket to immortalize his place in history, which would account for him not being on the official records. We are diligently working to learn more about this photographer but have been stymied by the lack of information we can make up.

We were researching the early records of the battle in a dim musty room in the basement of the Bighorn county courthouse in Hardin Montana for a project of our own, when a decrepit old file folder fell out from behind a desk we were moving and split open. Inside was a treasure trove of faded pictures, handwritten notes, folded maps, a few letters from some of the enlisted men they had given him to be mailed when they got back to civilization and other odds and ends.

As far as can be determined these items were placed in the courthouse around 1915 two years after the Courthouse was built, and were destined to be held there until a proper museum could be built where they were then to be put on display for all to see. Evidentially the folder containing all of the items had slipped down behind the desk and were forgotten until we happened across them.

As we sorted through the hundreds of pictures of the daily lives of the men of the 7th cavalry, including various depictions of actions that took place along the way of men on horseback, wagons pulled by mules filled with the supplies needed to support a mission of this size, the Officers leading the troop, even the General himself, and remarkably even some of the hostiles, the image above came to our attention.

Images printed on paper from fragile pixels, as opposed to those done on glass plates, or the even older method used by Daguerreotypes, were just coming into favor at this time and this one was beautifully hand-tinted with the utmost care taken to recreate the colors as they must have been when the picture was recorded. Each print had been carefully noted with the men’s names, the date of the image, the location, etc. in pencil on the back of each print. Unfortunately in this case of this image the names and some of the other information had been disfigured and faded due to the image getting wet at some point.

We were able to make out the name of the river, “Little Bighorn”, the date “something illegible – 1876”, and mysteriously the phrase “Hostile’s!”. Whether this pertained to Indians in pursuit of what appear to be two scouts returning, or some other event related to Indian activity we cannot ascertain at this point. Perhaps more information will turn up as we study this material further.

We are incredibly fortunate to have discovered this invaluable material and are busy sifting through it gleaning whatever new information might be hidden within its faded remains. We will be passing on anything we find that sheds new light on this important time in our history, and perhaps more about this unknown photographer.

The Scout

It was a common practice during the Indian wars for the Army to hire scouts as they entered unfamiliar areas of the country where they might encounter hostiles. These had to be men that were completely familiar with the country and tribes that lived there. Mostly they were white men who had grown up in this country and knew it like the back of their hands. Some had actually lived with the various tribes and spoke their language. Occasionally the Army hired Indians from opposing tribes to scout for them but this was usually done for specific campaigns.

Scouts were tough men, they had to be in they were to survive in this harsh land. They were independent and didn’t suffer fools easily. Their lives and the lives of the men  they were scouting for depended on their ability to travel fast, locate the enemy without being seen and get back to the Army with the information. They were like the special forces of their day.

This man was attached as a scout to Brigadier General George Crook’s column of ten companies (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, I, L, and M) of the 3rd cavalry out of Ft. Fetterman in Wyoming territory and as such did not get to the area of the Little Bighorn until well after the battle was over. As we know now this very probably saved his life and the lives of those men who accompanied him.

It was hard dangerous times in the 1870’s and so were the men who served in the military then. But most at risk were the scouts as they did the most dangerous job of all. To head out alone and survive by their own wits and courage. Mistakes usually meant he didn’t come back, so he tried very hard not to make any. History relates there were not many old scouts. Those that made it to a ripe old age were exceptional men, and a little bit lucky.

Spoils Of War

A day or two after the battle of the Greasy grass, or as we know it the Battle of the Little Bighorn, you could walk down between the lodges among the shadows of the cottonwoods that lined the river, and hear the women crying and keening as they continued to mourn their fallen loved ones. The wailing went on for an eternity as the knowledge that their fathers, husbands, brothers and sons were lost and gone forever.

Even at this cost it had been a great victory, the greatest victory against the pony soldiers that had ever occurred. Along with the deaths of the enemy soldiers there had been many things of great value that were taken that day. Scalps of course, but much more. Coups that were taken, guns and knives, clothing, blue jackets and belts and items like canteens and bullet pouches, sabers, small leather bags to keep things in and those curious pieces of paper with the picture of the Great Father on them that the soldiers seemed to value so much. Those were left behind as they were useless, but one of the real treasures to find were the wide brim hats that sparsely littered the field.

These hats were highly prized when gathered by the warriors who had killed the soldier wearing it and given a place of honor in the teepees when not being worn. This night one of them had been set on the corner of a backrest highlighted by the firelight seen against the wall of the lodge. The gold of the crossed sabers glimmering and glistening in the subdued light adding highlights to the worn patina of what must have been this soldiers proudest possession. Before long a wife would sew some handsome delicate beading on it and the warrior would add some coup feathers tied to the hat band to display his honors. This would turn an item taken from the battle into a treasured personal possession of the victor. Proof that the victory had taken place and now this piece of the spoils of war had a new owner.

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