Photo: Chief Saponowox with two sons Yakima Indian. Photo by Rutter, c.1910. Moorhouse collection.
It is important that the young people understand the difference between the traditional ways and the modern world we live in today. I have spoken before about the sacred support that was always present for the traditional Indians. With this support everywhere, from the moment you arose and said your first prayer, until the moment you went to sleep, you could at least see what was necessary in order to lead a proper life. Even the dress that you wore every day had sacred meanings, such as the bead work designs on the clothing, and wherever you went or whatever you did, whether you were hunting, making weapons, or whatever you were doing, you were participating in a sacred life and you knew who you were and carried a sense of the sacred with you. All of the forms had meaning, even the tipi and the sacred circle of the entire camp. Of course the life was hard and difficult and not all Indians followed the rules. But the support of the traditional life and the presence of Nature everywhere brought great blessings on all the people.
'Yellowtail, Crow Medicine Man and Sun Dance Chief: An Autobiography'
By Thomas Yellowtail (Author), Michael Oren Fitzgerald (Author)
Medicine man and Sun Dance chief Thomas Yellowtail is a pivotal figure in Crow tribal life. As a youth he lived in the presence of old warriors, hunters, and medicine men who knew the freedom and sacred ways of pre-reservation life. As the principal figure in the Crow-Shoshone Sun Dance religion, Yellowtail has preserved traditional values in the face of the constantly encroaching, diametrically opposed values of materialistic modern socity. Through his life story and description of the Sun Dance religion we can reexamine the premises and orientations of both cultures.
Yellowtail, born in 1903, is among the last of his generation of Native Americans. A medicine man (high priest) of the top rank, he views himself as a link between traditional indigenous spirituality and the tribulations of Native Americans under white society's thumb. Yellowtail believes his people must either return to their ethnic religions or face destruction by the white man's unreflective lifestyle. Here, as told to Indiana attorney Fitzgerald, who was adopted by the Crow in 1972, Yellowtail describes his experiences in the rigorous Sun Dance religion and details important ceremonies. While authentic and conveying the character of Yellowtail's spoken voice, the story is often repetitive.