We loved Paul Goble's nonfiction work Tipi: Home of the Nomadic Buffalo Hunters (2007), a gorgeously illustrated paperback. In this hardcover volume, the world-renowned author and winner of the prestigious Caldecott Award, presents more than two dozen short stories from the oral traditions of the different Indian nations; most of them were recorded between 1890 and 1920. In his introduction, Goble writes:
"Most stories were told after dark in wintertime. Imagine, dear readers and listeners, that you are sitting on buffalo robes in the tipi, with the fire at the center casting flickering shadows on the painted lining behind you. Someone places a glowing coal in front of the storyteller, who sprinkles juniper leaves on it, filling the lodge with scent, which pleases the good spirits. He rubs his hands in the smoke, and passing them over his head and body, he purifies himself. The Star People looking down through the smoke hole will be witness to the truth of the stories he will tell."
Storytellers and story lovers will savor these tales about animals, creation accounts, nursery ditties, songs, hunter sagas, and much more. We were quite taken with a Navaho piece called "My Horse Song" with the lines:"His legs are like quick lightning.
My horse's body is like an eagle-plumed arrow.
My horse has a tail like a trailing black cloud."
We also enjoyed the Dakota and Lakota explanation of where they found red stone for their sacred pipes. And we took a deep breath after reading the following Cheyenne song and commentary:"In sickness, or before going into battle, or facing any of life's greatest tests, people strengthened themselves with the song:
Only the stones
Stay on earth forever.
Use your best ability."
It seems that Native Americans, like Tibetan Buddhists, share this calm acceptance of impermanence which is of great comfort in hard or painful times. As is to be expected, the illustrations here are luminous!