George P. Horse Capture & Emil Her Many Horses, editors,
A Song for the Horse Nation:
Horses in Native American Culture

(Fulcrum, 2006)

A Song for the Horse Nation is a magnificent look at the role the horse played in Native American culture. This is the book for horse lovers or anyone interested in horses in the past Native American culture. It will provide endless hours of fascination, and likely inspire you to create some horse items for yourself or your horses. From tack and decorations to dolls, this book covers an extensive range of horse items and topics.

This collection of horse-related materials, all objects from the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, must be called eclectic -- fascinating, exciting, visually stunning, but eclectic! It includes photographs of Native Americans and their horses in every imaginable situation, from a ride by a woman and child using only a chin loop for a bridle, to the most elaborate ceremonial regalia and trappings.

There are photographs of old postcards, paintings and pictographs. There are full-color photographs of saddles, bridles, blankets, quirts, coup sticks, saddle bags, martingales, croupers, masks, hoof ornaments, clothing items and accessories for humans -- dance sticks, drum, shield, mirror board, heddle, blankets, basket, gourd container, qero, flute, pipe, knife and more.

The essays and anecdotes are educational, informative, fascinating and highly entertaining. After a foreword by W. Richard West Jr., Herman J. Viola introduces the history of the horse in America and explains how the Native Americans acquired horses. Emil Her Many Horses relates the Lakota traditions involving horses. Linda R. Martin, a Navajo, dispels the stereotypes of media "Indians."

My favorite part of the book is the section about stealing horses. It includes a moving anecdote from Old Buffalo about the Crow and Sioux stealing horses and an anecdote from Joe Medicine Crow about stealing horses from the Germans during World War II. But the part that I love best is the anecdote from Joe's nephew, Carson Walks Over Ice, who tried to carry on the Crow warrior traditions during the Vietnam War while serving with the Green Berets. He never got a chance to steal horses, but the enemy did have elephants.

This is a brilliant book and I love everything about it. It has something to appeal to every age group. I am ecstatic that somebody put together a book of this type to educate people about the role of the horse in Native American culture.

George P. Horse Capture is a member of the A'aninin Tribe, born on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation. He has a bachelor's degree in anthropology and a master's in history. He was awarded an honorary doctorate degree. He is the author of Powwow and coauthor of Beauty, Honor, & Tradition: The Legacy of the Plains Indian Shirts.

Emil Her Many Horses is an Oglala Lakota with a bachelor's degree in business administration. He is the associate curator of the National Museum of the American Indian. A beadwork artist and traditional doll-maker, his tribute to Lakota Vietnam Veterans won Best of Show in the Northern Plains Art Show.

My only complaint about this book is that there is not much about horses in the modern Native American culture. Still, you cannot go wrong with the purchase of A Song for the Horse Nation. It is a brilliant work of art and literature on a subject endeared around the world. It is one book that you will be eager to share with relatives and friends -- one that will mesmerize persons of all ages.

book review by
Alicia Karen Elkins

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