X. War

SOCIAL standing and chieftainship, we have seen, were dependent on military prowess; and that was the only road to distinction. Value was set on other qualities, such as liberality, aptness at story-telling, success as a doctor. But the property a man distributed was largely the booty he had gained in raids; and any accomplishments, prized as they might be, were merely decorative frills, not substitutes for the substance of a reputation, a man's record as a warrior. I know of at least one Crow of the old school whose intelligence would have made him a shining light wherever store was set by sheer capacity of the legal type, but who enjoyed no prestige whatsoever among his people. In fact, I was repeatedly warned against his mendacity, though his accounts of tribal life tallied perfectly with those of generally accredited informants. The point was simply that he had gained no honors in war and had tried to doctor this deficiency when publicly reciting his achievements.

War was not the concern of a class nor even of the male sex, but of the whole population, from cradle to grave. Girls as well as boys derived their names from a famous man's exploit. Women danced wearing scalps, derived honor from their husbands' deeds, publicly exhibited the men's shields or weapons; and a woman's lamentations over a slain son was the most effective goad to a punitive expedition. There are memories of a woman who went to war; indeed, Muskrat, one of my women informants, claimed to have struck a coup and scalped a Piegan, thus earning songs of praise.

Most characteristic was the intertwining of war and religion. The Sun Dance, being a prayer for revenge, was naturally saturated with military episodes; but these were almost as prominent in the Tobacco ritual, whose avowed purpose was merely the general welfare. More significant still, every single military undertaking was theoretically inspired by a revelation in dream or vision; and since success in life was so largely a matter of martial glory, war exploits became the chief content of prayer.

-215-

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The Crow Indians
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Illustrations ix
  • Preface xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • I - Tribal Organization 3
  • II - Kinship and Affnity 18
  • III - From Cradle to Grave 33
  • IV - The Workaday World 72
  • V - Literature 104
  • VI - Selected Tales 119
  • VII - Old Woman's Grandchild 134
  • VIII - Twined-Tail 158
  • IX - Club Life 172
  • X - War 215
  • XI - Religion 237
  • XII - Rites and Festivals 256
  • XIII - The Bear Song Dance 264
  • XIV - The Sacred Pipe Dance 269
  • XV - The Tobacco Society 274
  • XVI - The Sun Dance 297
  • XVII - World-View 327
  • Appendix I - Sources 335
  • Appendix II - Clan Names 340
  • Glossary 343
  • Index 345
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