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When Dogs Could Talk

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Dog Soldiers

In the Garden, Before the Fall

Corps of Discovery

THE WEST Episode One

Dog Soldiers

N. Scott Momaday"The dog soldiers were the elite military organizations in the tribe. They were the last line of defense for the people. And so they were greatly esteemed. The warriors in the society were outfitted with a particular sash, which trailed the ground. And White Man Runs Him, Croweach member carried a sacred arrow. And in time of battle, the dog soldier would impale the sash to the ground and stand the ground to the death. They had a song which only the members could sing, and only in the face of death. So you can imagine, that children, when they saw a dog soldier go by, must have just -- Ahhh, wow! Look at that guy, he's a dog soldier!"
N. Scott Momaday

According to Cheyenne tradition, there was once a prophet named Sweet Medicine who taught his people how to conduct themselves. He set up a council of 44 chiefs to speak for all the Cheyenne, and presented them with four Sacred Arrows, two to subdue their human enemies, two to make the buffalo fall before them.

And he brought them a warning: strangers called "Earth Men" would one day appear among them, light-skinned, speaking an unknown tongue. And with them would come a strange animal that would change the Cheyenne way of life -- and that of every other Indian people -- forever.

It was the horse.

A horse filmed by the makers of THE WESTApache and Navajo raiders got them first, but when the Spanish were driven out of New Mexico, the thousands of horses they left behind spread across the West. By the 1690s, the horse was being used by tribes of the Southern plains. By 1700, it had transformed the lives of Detail from Catlin's Buffalo Chasethe Kiowa and Comanche, along the eastern foothills of the Rockies. At the same time, the horse reached the Shoshone and Bannocks in what is now Idaho. The Nez PercÚ stole some from them, and soon had herds that numbered in the thousands in the lush Wallowa Valley of the Pacific Northwest.

N. Scott Momaday"It must have been the realization of an ancient dream to be elevated, to be severed from the earth, cut free. What a sense of life that must have been, different from anything they'd ever known. With the horse, their ancient nomadism was realized to the fullest extent, and they had conquered their oldest enemy, which was distance."
N. Scott Momaday

The Great Plains now became a crowded meeting ground for some thirty tribes drawn from every direction, and the horse became the most precious symbol of wealth and prestige -- a valuable prize to steal from your enemies and a faster way to reach them. A man's bravery was measured by the size of his horse herd and by the number of times he had physically touched an enemy in battle -- called "counting coup."

N. Scott Momaday"Before the horse, life must have been hard. A person would have to give virtually every hour of his waking time to solving the simple problem of survival. But with the horse, a hunter could acquire enough food in one day to last him months. He was suddenly given a margin of freedom that he could never have imagined. And so what he did with it, of course, was to celebrate it in terms of the warrior ideal: "Now I have leisure. I can go and hunt, and I can -- I can visit my enemies and count coup. I can be brave and I can attain glory."
N. Scott Momaday

Mounted Ute father and sonA man could not even court a girl unless he had proved his courage. That was one reason so many were anxious to win good war records.... They were all afraid of what people, and especially the women, would say if they were cowardly. The women even had a song they would sing about a man whose courage had failed him: "If you are afraid when you charge, turn back. The Desert Women will eat you." ...It was hard to go into a fight, and they were often afraid, but it was worse to turn back and face the women.
John Stands in Timber

Jo Allyn Archambault"I, as the Lakota woman four generations ago, would have cut off the arms and the legs and heads of the enemies that my husband killed, and I would have put them on a stick, and I would have paraded them in the scalp dance that evening when we honored our men."
Jo Allyn Archambault

Mary Armstrong"When the horses get together they make a lot of dust, and when they 'd see this, why they knew that they were coming back from a hunt or a fight.... Then they danced, all jolly and happy after they fed their warriors, and everybody spruced up and got out, and they had a big victory dance. That's when women all get in a line and dance around."
Mary Armstrong

On the southern Plains, the Comanches began driving the Apaches out of the grasslands and into the deserts and mountains of New Mexico. In the north, the Lakota -- or the Sioux, as some of their enemies would later call them -- pressed westward, pushing the Cheyenne ahead of them and displacing other tribes as they expanded across the Missouri. "There was always fighting going on somewhere," said one Crow woman. "We sometimes tried to keep our men from going to war, but this was like talking to winter-winds."

And with this increased contact among tribes came a wave of epidemics. Smallpox, cholera, tuberculosis, measles, diptheria -- European diseases against which they had no immunity -- now raced from people to people.

Michael Dorris"It was a total holocaust. And it wasn't the cavalry. It was a series of pandemics that wiped out most Indian people before Europeans ever encountered them."
Michael Dorris


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