Friday, September 28, 2012

The buffalo dance

I am pleased to present the cover for my upcoming historical novel Winter of the Metal People in the illustration at the top in the left-side menu. It illustrates a scene from the book's first chapter. "The Buffalo Dancer" was created by a Puebloan artist, Persingula Tafoya. She is from Kewa Pueblo between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Known for centuries by the Spanish name of Santo Domingo Pueblo, its residents took back their Keres tribal name in 2009 although their website still carries the former name.
     The buffalo still remain important to the tribes of the Great Plains and the Puebloans of the American Southwest. The Puebloans held buffalo hunts every year until the mid-1800s when the great herds were decimated in American warfare against Plains Indians. They traded buffalo hides to distant tribes for centuries, and Coronado seized many buffalo-hide cloaks to clothe his expeditionaries in 1540-42.
     The buffalo dance is still a sacred ceremonial among some surviving pueblos. Unlike the tribes on the Great Plains, which used a buffalo's entire head, Puebloans wore a cape of the buffalo hide with only the top of the head and its horns. Some pueblos maintain buffalo herds today as a tribute to their heritage and long-shared dependence on the animal.
     And yes, I know academics say these great beasts should be called bison, not buffalo. But the animals have been known as buffalo since the earliest U.S. settlers encountered the woodland subspecies as far east as at least West Virginia. So the word buffalo is used today by most people and therefore also in the book.

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