“Crazy Horse” 20x20, $1495
In the final months before his surrender in 1877, Crazy Horse retreated alone to the Powder River country and pleaded for a vision that would show him how to preserve his people and homeland. Compounding the Lakota war chief’s grief during that long winter was the ill health of his wife, Black Shawl. As he fasted and prayed in the hills near the present-day Montana-Wyoming line, a red-tailed hawk, his spirit helper, descended with an eagle. Crazy Horse took the eagle’s message to holy men and together they created a healing ceremony. Although Crazy Horse was killed within months of his surrender, Black Shawl — thought at the time to have tuberculosis — lived to be an old woman.
The eagle, chief of birds — the one who could fly the highest and carry messages to and from First Maker — was intricately woven into life on the Northern Plains. Two Leggins, a chief of the River Crow in the last of the buffalo days, was protected by the medicine of an eagle feather painted with six white spots. It gave him the power to direct the wind, he said in his dictated autobiography.
“After the proper ceremony, the wind would blow from the direction pointed by the feather in my hair,” he said. “The six spots meant the owner could cause a sudden hailstorm between myself and a pursuing enemy. Later I used the feather many times and it always worked.”
Who could doubt the spiritual power of such a magnificent bird?
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