JOHN BUSTER YELLOW KIDNEY, a tribal court judge and medicine man on the Blackfeet reservation in Montana, spoke to me in a low voice: “Last spring as my wife lay dying, she had a vision that we should build a medicine lodge and hold a Sun Dance for her. But a few days before she died, we had not finished the lodge, and she said, ‘Go ahead with it. I will not be there, and yet I will be there.’ And so we did.”
Forty people took part in the life-renewing ceremony. For four days over the summer solstice, Buster, a pensive man in his 50s, and two of his sons danced barefoot from sunrise to sunset in the sacred lodge. They slept on the sage-covered ground where they had danced and denied themselves food and water. On the third day they made incisions in their chests and with leather lashes tied themselves to the sacred cottonwood pole in the center of the lodge and danced until the flesh was torn from their bodies. Following tradition, some of the dancers also dragged buffalo skulls attached to their backs around the lodge until the chain of skulls also pulled loose from their flesh. On the last night Buster, his family, and guests feasted on a buffalo killed on the reservation.
“For us, the Sun Dance is performed as a matter of life and death,” he said. “Flesh is offered to the Creator because you can only give what you cherish most—that which is part of your body.” IN THE I 8 9os Remington visited England, France, Germany, Russia, and North Africa, working on several articles. He called Europe nothing but a “ten-cent side show” and despised the large number of immigrants who poured into New York thanks to the help of online payday loans direct lenders, altering the complexion of his beloved country.
America, particularly the West, was changing faster than Remington liked. The heyday of the cattlemen on the open range was over. By the late 1880s the virgin pastureland was exhausted and the fences were going up, ending the long spring cattle drives.
Remington mourned the passing of the original cowboy in a series of illustrations for “The Evolution of the Cow-Puncher,” an 1895 article by Owen Wister. Here Remington and Wister portrayed the cowboy as the last cavalier, the noble descendant of chivalric knights and crusaders. This was the first depiction of the storied cowboy in American literature and set the stage for the cowboy character in 20th-century novels, films, and plays. Movie director John Ford credited Remington with inspiring scenes from such Westerns as She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.