Few non-Indians have immersed themselves as deeply in the histories and traditions of the Native nations of the Great Plains as Paul Goble. Through his distinguished career as an artist and a storyteller, he’s always paid close attention to the details that often elude those who try to write about or illustrate Native American stories but lack his knowledge and desire for veracity.
That’s one reason why this new edition of Lone Bull’s Horse Raid, first published in 1973, is so welcome.
Another reason is his writing. It is as direct, informative, and clear as a Lakota elder recounting the tale to his grandchildren. The story moves at a pace as rapid and exciting as the horse raid it describes. Here’s a passage about getting ready outside the enemy camp:
I took off my leggings to walk more quietly. Charging Bear cut cottonwood bark and we rubbed the cool sap over our bodies because horses like the sweet smell and would not fear strangers in the dark.
Then there are the illustrations. Goble’s style has always been distinctly his own, including his use of a white “spirit line” around his figures. But it also draws upon and honors the ancient Plains traditions of stylized art that we see on parfleche bags and the tanned buffalo skin “winter counts” where a year’s important events were pictured.
One should note that American Indian traditions of raiding other tribes for horses were viewed as an honorable pursuit by all the native nations of the Great Plains. It was not “stealing” in the European sense, but something done to earn honor amongst one’s people as much as it was to obtain those horses. In fact, it was common for men who were successful in taking horses from another tribe to then give away many of those same horses to one’s own tribal members who needed them.
It’s also interesting to note that the way of life Goble presents so brilliantly only began after Spanish herds escaped and spread across the center of the continent following the great Pueblo Revolt of 1680. The time of mounted Indians hunting buffalo and raiding for horses lasted less than two centuries and ended abruptly during the last third of the 19th century with the brutal near-extermination of the American bison by white hunters.
This book tells a story of that time as well as anyone has ever told it. Within these pages you’ll experience the bravery, tension, and triumph of a young man on his first raid. It’s a trip worth taking.
—Joseph Bruchac, author of such books as: Keepers of the Earth: Native American Stories and Environmental Activities for Children (with Michael Caduto), Children of the Longhouse, Eagle Song, Sacajawea, Trail of Tears, and Crazy Horse’s Vision (illustrated by S.D. Nelson).