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Book Review: Pretty-Shield: Medicine Woman of the Crows by Frank B. Linderman

January 12, 2015


Genre: Biography, memoir, anthropological study


Synposis: Pretty-shield, the legendary medicine woman of the Crows, remembered what life was like on the Plains when the buffalo were still plentiful. A powerful healer who was forceful, astute, and compassionate, Pretty-shield experienced many changes as her formerly mobile people were forced to come to terms with reservation life in the late nineteenth century.

Pretty-shield told her story to Frank Linderman through an interpreter and using sign language. The lives, responsibilities, and aspirations of Crow women are vividly brought to life in these pages as Pretty-shield recounts her life on the Plains of long ago. She speaks of the simple games and dolls of an Indian childhood and the work of the girls and women—setting up the lodges, dressing the skins, picking berries, digging roots, and cooking. Through her eyes we come to understand courtship, marriage, childbirth and the care of babies, medicine-dreams, the care of the sick, and other facets of Crow womanhood.


My Take: OK, my mom got this book when she was in college, and I read it when I was very young. I loved it so much, that I still have that copy and have read it about a dozen times! Something about Native American History calls to me. It always has. (No one has noticed that many of my books have Native Americans in them, have they?)  Perhaps it is the need to connect with my heritage, perhaps it comes from growing up in Montana, so close to the reservation. Maybe it is my Underdog complex, I don't know. 


But this book is an amazing view of Native Americans. It not only shows the culture and history, but how that changed with being forced to live on the reservation. It is not about legendary characters, or massive game changing events (though they do briefly discuss her memories of some events that may not be big in the collective memory of Native American history, but were catastrophic for this tribe.)


Pretty Shield focuses on the every day, and makes it beautiful. She shares stories of her youth, stories of her People. It is simple, elegant, and enlightening. I am sure I will read it again soon. 


Until Next Time, 


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