I love reading about American Indian history, particularly historical fiction or memoir told by or about women. I’m surprised that I have not come across this book earlier.
The story is basically a series of interviews that the author had with Pretty-shield. He even tells you right there in the book and he goes on to describe each interview in detail to recount what she has told him. This is not a biography, but rather an outsider-lead memoir. During each interview Frank prompts a topic or Pretty-shield comes in with a story she remembered and wants to share with him. You get the feel for the reservation school house they are using and snippets about life for Pretty-shield at the reservation. However, the bulk of the information comes from the various stories Pretty-shield conveys to Frank through sign talk and an interpreter. The topics vary greatly and don’t follow any particular order. You learn about women’s jobs in the Crow nation, various ceremonies, cultural fears and beliefs, daily routines, buffalo hunts, marriage ceremonies, the importance of war between the tribes, mourning, family relationships, traditions, and even about the the Crows joining with General Custer and fighting with him at the Little Bighorn. There is a wealth of information in this relatively short book, conveyed by a very enthusiastic and likable woman. I wasn’t a big fan of the interview format or the disjointed story telling, but you did learn a lot. I think if he would have taken her stories and put them in chronological order it would have been a little better. However, he was staying true to his craft and intended to portray his information and source in the most authentic way possible. You really got a feeling for the type of woman Pretty-shield was and got a strong sense of her personality and sense of humor. She is a fascinating woman and really brings to life the Crow nation and its lost lifestyle. I’m surprised there aren’t any historical fiction books based around her life and stories.
If you are at all interested in American Indian history, way of life, or an interesting woman, I would highly recommend this book for you. Like I said, you have to expect to read it as an interview and not really a story. She tells different tales within each chapter and varies between present day and when she was younger. You learn a mass amount of information about the Crows and their lifestyle and get a deeper understanding of their culture and belief system. I can’t say I’ll probably read it again, but I am definitely glad I read it now.