The Seven Visions of Bull Lodge

The Seven Visions of Bull Lodge

The Seven Visions of Bull Lodge

The Seven Visions of Bull Lodge


"Provides real insight into the religion of the nineteenth-century Gros Ventre (Atsina) Indians. Known to themselves as the White Clay People, this little-known tribe now shares the Fort Belknap Reservation in Montana with the Assiniboines. However, throughout much of their recorded history they were allied with the Blackfeet. The book is a record of the spiritual life of Bull Lodge (born ca. 1802, died 1886), religions leader, healer, and for a time, keeper of the Feathered Pipe, one of the two tribal objects of the Gros Ventres.... [It] makes absorbing reading. Beginning at the age of twelve. Bull Lodge sought spiritual power through the tribal Feathered Pipe. From the ages of seventeen to twenty-three he was favored with a series of seven visions on seven buttes that together outline a Gros Ventre cultural geography.... "The strength of the narrative is the rich detail of ritual description: fasting, sacrifices, vision experiences, the practices of healing. By describing ritual in the context of a man's life, the book gives a uniquely historical understanding of the dynamics of traditional religious life. It provides deeper understanding of the Gros Ventres' way of life and gives a valuable comparative perspective on plains Indian religion."--Raymond J. DeMallie, Western Historical Quarterly.

George Horse Capture is field manager of Fort Belknap Ventures. Inc., a tribal enterprise to develop and market traditional Indian art. At present he is helping to establish a tribal museum.


This book is part of a larger effort of tribal cultural restoration. Few people realize the importance of such efforts because non- Indians are seldom aware of the needs behind them. If they do not themselves feel this kind of need, perhaps it is because they lack a viable, living heritage in this country. That is sad. But it is sadder still that Indian people must be caught up in a world not of their making. We find ourselves drifting helplessly in the melting pot, unable to adapt to a system where survival is linked to an ethic of frantic competition. Some of us become lost, without direction or goal. We need far more than this. We need to live from our own history. By understanding it and the people involved in it, we may see our present more clearly and prepare for the future. No one can do this for us. Because we must learn from ourselves, it must be a tribal effort. This is such an endeavor.

We are the A'aninin -- the White Clay People of Montana. Many other terms have been used to designate our tribe, such as the Atsina, Mintarrees, Rapid Indians and Fall Indians, but they are wrong. Even the name we are "officially" known by, the Gros Ventres, is inaccurate. From the dawn to the sunset of time, we will always be the People of the White Clay.

Our history is long, hard and colorful. Long ago we were one with the Arapaho. in the early 1700's in North Dakota, the tribe divided, with the Arapaho moving southwest and the White Clay People moving northwest into Canada. There were many contacts with non-Indians over the following years, and a number recorded their experiences -- Hendry (1754), Cocking (1772), Umfreville (1784), and Mackenzie (1789), to name a few. We journeyed north past the forks of the Saskatchewan Rivers, then moved west and became a part of the feared Blackfeet confederacy.

In 1793 we burned a fort, the South Branch House, on the south Saskatchewan. a year later we destroyed a fort on Pine Island, called Manchester House (on the main branch of the Saskatchewan). Heavy pressure from more numerous and better-

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