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Crow Tribe USU alumnus offers Native American insights

November 14th, 2010 Posted in Arts and Life

By David Bowman

LOGAN—Students had the privilege of listening to traditional Native American stories about the Crow Tribe of Montana at USU last week.

Grant Bulltail spoke in English, folklore and history classes, telling a variety of stories and also informing students on the Native American way of life in the Greater Yellowstone region.

Women were a very important part to Native American culture, Bulltail said, and are held in higher regard and have more authority than men in the Crow tribe. A woman is in charge of the home and everything in it.

“Energy is all around in the universe and women are the ones who obtain it,” Bulltail said. That energy is very important. It gives the individual powers that are very specific. These powers can give the ability to heal or even great strength.

He told a variety of stories but one in particular was about an impoverished woman who received her power from the Moon. The Moon sent her on a journey and in order to help her, the Moon gave her its energy. The woman used this energy to lead six brave warriors to an enemy camp. At the camp they stole horses and half the tribe’s war party supplies. They returned as heroes and the woman and her husband became wealthy and well respected amongst the tribe.

Bulltail said this story is a great example on how important energy is to the Native Americans. He continued with saying that his grandfather was given energy from a dying buffalo bull that fell on him and his horse. His grandfather used the energy to free himself from under the two animals. He said this energy has the ability to heal and it was passed down to him from his grandfather.

“Native American way of life changed when his people were placed on reservations and the buffalo population declined,” said Bulltail.

Native Americans, before being placed on reservations, would go on war parties. These war parties were as much as a ceremony as a way of life, said Bulltail. The men would receive a trophy based on their accomplishments on the battlefield. These trophies were not adorned by the men whoever, their wives wore the trophies. The men did not wear them most of the time because they needed to be ready for battle at all times.

Bulltail sang in all of his stories. Each time he sang was at a particular part of story when the woman was using her energy, to explain tragedy or to be recognized. He said singing is very important to Native American culture and not a single ceremony goes by that the men and women in attendance do not sing.

Bulltail said, “When I remember family events and how stories were told sometimes I cry.”

Tears were very important to the Crow Tribe, said Bulltail. The women would bring what was called a medicine bundle. This bundle contained important items from the tribe, normally a ceremonial pipe and weapons. These bundles would great good fortune to the war parties and they were given to the crow tribe by the Creator.

The Creator was defined by Bulltail as being with ultimate energy. The creator provided his tears in the medicine bundles but the men rejected them. Bulltail said the men then had to earn his energy from then on because of his ignorance.

Bulltail, who resides in Montana with his wife, attended USU in 1975 and was a student of Dr. Austin Fife, who taught folklore and French.

Bulltail’s stories were videotaped and will be available in the folklore archives on USU campus.


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