There, way off in the distance, past the lodges, past the meadows, past the trees, past even the clouds, there is something important happening. Some arresting movement, something that makes one pause, something that bears close scrutiny and causes both woman and horse to stop and watch intently. Is it real, or is it perhaps a vision. Maybe she’ll tell us when she talks her dreams. Until then we can only see her and wonder what it is that she sees, there out past the clouds.
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.
This post has been moved to OpenChutes.com. All future postings of Powwows, Indian Relay Races, Rodeos and Rendezvous will be posted there from now on exclusively. So if you’re looking for new images and posts for all those events attended this year, plus all the old posts posted on BigShotsNow.com check out OpenChutes.com. See you there!
The highlight of any Indian rodeo is the Indian Relay Races. That event alone is worth traveling just about any distance to see. These races must be held out doors as the excitement generated at one of these races will simply blow the roof off any building you try to hold them in. I know, these are bold statements, but once you see one of these races you’ll be a convert. To see more about these races visit this post http://www.bigshotsnow.com/crow-fair-2015-indian-relay-races/ to see it in action.
The intensity of the races builds to a fever pitch with horses, riders and even those in the grandstand filled to the brim with frenetic energy. Sometimes the excitement gets to the point where the horse loses control and begins to act up because it wants to be out on that racetrack running its heart out. But it isn’t its time yet. It has to remain here in position so that when the relay rider comes in, it is ready for him to mount and race away, hopefully winning the race.
What you see here is a brief moment in time where the handler has an intimate quiet discussion with the horse explaining to it that it needs to remain calm. If it does it will have its chance in a second and that if it just stays calm a little longer it’ll be out on that track running like the wind and it will be the winner. A horse among horses. King of the stables. Or something like that. It was hard to hear over all the screaming from the grandstands.
Surprisingly the horse calmed right down and patiently waited for the rider to come in and make the exchange. We’d like to report that this horse and rider did win the race but unfortunately that didn’t happen. He came in second. There is only one winner in a horse race and this wasn’t this horse’s day. But there’s always the next race, the next rodeo, the next chance to be a winner. They’ll be back.
This is the I.Q. Tree. For centuries it has lived on the edge of a precipice overlooking the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone just a few feet away. It has been called many names over its lifetime. The tripod tree, even though it actually has four legs. The Crow who hunted this area called the tree ‘bii shiilik’*, which means “trap of souls” in their language, and as a society, that would be us, that was mesmerized by investigating the inner working of our minds it became the I.Q. Tree.
It is called the I.Q. tree because it is a test set up by Mother Nature as another way of assuring that the most intelligent of our species survived to breed and produce off-spring with even greater intelligence than the preceding one, thereby improving the human race.
It’s intriguing shape, with the four legs holding up the main trunk is a natural attraction drawing the curious in. That by itself wasn’t the test. The test was after those who had lesser intelligence than say, your average toaster, had tired of being in and under the tree, taking selfies, throwing stones over the edge, daring themselves or each other to go stand on the crumbly yet unstable edge of the precipice, where they would fall into the canyon, screaming as they fell for the 20 minutes or so that it took to reach the bottom, did so. Thereby failing the test. Those with a higher degree of intelligence, after seeing several people go over the edge would not go under the tree, or go stand on the treacherous edge of the canyon. They would pass the test and pass on their intelligent genes to their progeny.
This is the view those who failed the test saw as their final destination several miles below. One would think that you would first hit several or all of those rocky projections sticking up so precariously but as luck would have it there is usually a strong wind blowing through the canyon and it would carry you out far enough that you would normally land in the river or close to it.
As second prize Mother Nature provides several intriguing views for you to gaze on as you made your descent. Here is a nice view of the falls. Unfortunately it is hard to hear its roar due to the wind screaming past their ears but it was pretty anyway.
And they met some interesting folks on the way down. In fact this would be the last one they would meet due to their imminent arrival with the river’s surface or at least the bank next to it. This is Raven or as he will soon be known to the new arrival as KWEKWAXA’WE or the Sorter. He will convey your soul, depending in his estimation of how you comported yourself on the way down to its final destination. If he decides you were completely devoid of any redeeming qualities he would carry you that place where you might be returned to our life as a lesser being to learn humility. If he found that you were constructed of more admirable traits but simply of lesser intelligence, he would convey you to that place that returned you to our sphere as a higher being, like a Golden Retriever or a reoccurring sunset over the Tetons.
However, in our enlightened society the powers that be made the decision to cut down the I.Q. Tree as they deemed it too harsh a test of societies general intelligence, plus it was working KWEKWAXA’WE to death, what with people dropping out the sky constantly. They thought that by tying the I.Q test of the I.Q. Tree to the general level of education in our country, that it placed a huge segment of our society, the dumb ones, at an unfair advantage. It sort of permanently held them back, as it were. It also raised a cry of ” Save the Dumb Ones” and “Dumb Ain’t Bad” from the lefties. At first KWEKWAXA’WE was dismayed as it seemed he might be out of job but then he took a look at us and thought “If ever there was a group who will find a way to take the test , it is this one.” and he went back to taking a short break satisfied that his job was secure.
If you go to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and go to the first lookout you will see that the tree is gone. There isn’t even a spot, or spots, where the roots entered the ground. So this is one of the last images you will see of it. However if you look closely you will see that they neglected to put up a guard rail to keep the curious from going over to that crumbly yet unstable edge and standing in the spot where so many have taken the test. So be careful if you go there. If you lean way out and look straight down you can see Raven lazily circling down there at the very bottom of the canyon, waiting, occasionally looking back up at you, wondering, will you pass the test.
* Note: bii shiilik is a Crow word meaning ‘Yellow Stone’ which became Yellowstone and as we all know if you have ever been there it is a Trap of Souls, as once you have spent any time there your soul is trapped by it beauty.
As you drive up that magical highway, highway 287 which runs from Port Arthur, Texas to Choteau, Montana, you will find many amazing and curious things. As the song said “You can’t get to heaven on 287, but you can get as far, as you can get by car.” Along the way there are landmarks and geological features and places where famous and infamous events took place and this is one of them.
This is Crowheart Butte, a place famous for a huge battle that took place here in 1866. The event took place, but exactly how it played out, is still open to discussion. There are several versions of the story but the one that has the most legs is this one I’ve passed on below.
Crowheart Butte is located on the Wind River Reservation somewhat East of Dubois, Wyoming. It is the home of the Shoshone tribe but this wasn’t always the case. In 1866 the Shoshone considered the entire Wind River area their own hunting grounds and vigorously defended it from any incursions by other tribes. The Crow who chose to also hunt here disputed that fact and lay challenge to the Shoshone that they would hunt here as they pleased and the conflict took shape. There were several tribes involved, The Shoshone, the Bannock and the Crow. The Shoshone and Bannock were allied against the Crow. The battle commenced and lasted for five days during which there was great loss of life on both sides.
The chief of the Shoshone, Chief Washakie, challenged the chief of the Crow, Chief Big Robber, to a duel to the death to reduce any further loss of life on either side. The chiefs would fight on the top of the Butte and whoever was the victor would decide who the valley belonged to and the other would leave to hunt there no more forever.
The one who was victorious would cut the heart out of the other and eat it as a symbol of his strength and power. Chief Washakie was the ultimate winner and defeating Chief Big Robber did cut his heart out. This is where the stories differ. Some say he did indeed eat his opponents heart and others say that he impaled it on his lance and brought if back to prove his victory. Supposedly when asked about the incident later in his life he replied “One does reckless things when you are young.” Regardless of the ending of the story regarding what was done to Chief Big Robber’s heart, the Shoshone were now the owners of the valley which later became the Wind River reservation as it is known today.
Because he was so impressed with his enemies fighting abilities, Chief Washakie chose to give Chief Big Robbers tribal name, the Crow, to the butte and the small town that grew up near there. Crowheart butte is visible from miles away and is the prominent feature in the area. It can be seen clearly from highway 287 as you travel from amazing place to another.