book review

Children of the Tipi: Life in the Buffalo Days

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Today we are starting a special new series called Children of the Tipi. Wisdom Tales Press, one of our sponsors sent an ARC (advanced review copy) of this splendid book.

Wisdom Tales Press

Michael Oren Fitzgerald in his new release Children of the Tipi, Life in the Buffalo Days assembles a collection of Plains Indian proverbs and photographs to answer the question, what was it like for children to grow up in the world of the pre-reservation Plains Indians during the Buffalo Days?


Through this book, we can now have a first hand look as we gaze into the stunning black and white photos and hear the words of wisdom from plains tribes long ago.

Covering the topics of mothers, names, boys & girls at play, fathers, snow, grandmothers, storytelling, mother earth, nomadic life, life in the camp, pottery, jewelry, rugs, music dance, tipis, hunting, sacred life, horses, nature, and great chiefs, Children of the Tipi is a great resource to come back to again and again.

Author Michael Oren Fitzgerald has spent over 40 years searching through thousands of photos to discover this time gone by.

Michael Oren Fitzgerald

The quotes used in the book are from men and women living before 1904. These were the nomadic people of the Plains, living before the creation of reservations.

My children were simply mesmerized at looking into the faces of Native Americans who lived long ago. These photos have become a testament to the legends we hear about . We were awestruck in this books beauty and simplicity.

Something to Do:

“Our games were feats with the bow and arrow. We had foot and pony reaches, wrestling and swimming. We imitated the customs and habits of our fathers.”  Charles Eastman (Ohiyesa), Wahpeton Dakota


 “The first gift I received from my father was a bow and arrows. He made them himself. He painted the bow red, which signified that he had been wounded in battle. I was very young at the time, so the arrows were fashioned with knobs on the end, instead of the sharp points. The bow was not a strong one to pull. That bow and arrows was the beginning of my Indian training. It was to be my weapon in war, and was to get my food for me. I always kept it near me.” Standing Bear, Oglala Lakota



 How to Make a Bow and Arrow



One young man I know has been trying all winter and spring to make a bow and arrow that actually works. He’s consulted our neighborly boy scouts, guides, and on-line sources, but nothing seemed to work.

One night as this young man was complaining to his mother that this is an impossible task, someone’s father overheard and said,”On the weekend I will teach you how to make the greatest bow and arrow.”

The young man doubted that his father held this knowledge in his well-used craw, but he was game nonetheless. What did he have to lose?


The important thing is that the stick bends well. A young spring sapling is best.


Next measure double the length of thread as your bow size. Now make three threads the same size.


Braid them.


Cut notches into the side on both ends of the stick.


Tie one end of the braid into the first notch. Then tie it onto the other side. Now we’re ready.






Wonder boy’s sister was majorly impressed with this new “toy” and needed one of her very own. So off to the bow and arrow maker she went.



And all were very very happy.

The End.

16 thoughts on “Children of the Tipi: Life in the Buffalo Days

  1. Sounds like an interesting book. I remember making bows and arrows as a child, but just tying the string to each end; I would never have thought of braiding the string. Now I have to try that!

    1. Hope it works out for you. This was a great solution after many failed attempts by me his mother. 🙂

  2. Fun stuff for older kids to do. Finding a bendy stick would be the most challenging part i am guessing!
    -Resh @

    1. The new sticks or branches in spring work the best but we’ve found things all year round too.

  3. Anytime I read something that suggests Native people are no longer here, I have a strong reaction. That reaction is compounded here because I assumed that your Multicultural celebration was well-informed. How can it be, if you’re heralding a book series like this one?!

    The Lakota people did not vanish. Perhaps you’re going to respond to my comment by saying that they’re no longer “nomadic” and so, you might say that your statement is accurate. That’d be quibbling, especially since the content of the book fits the classic–but deeply flawed–style of black/white photos that suggest a long-ago time period. That is where far too many people put us (yes, I’m Native) and sadly—you’re doing it, too.

    1. Hello Debbie,
      Thank you so much for sharing your views here. Yes Native Americans are still here. I’m honored and happy to work with and know many from several tribes including the Lakota, Chinook,and Navajo tribes. This book was created by a gentleman who discovered these old photos from the National Archives. They were hidden away and he found them and created this book. All I did was review this book and suggest a few activities to go along with them since that is the premise of Jump into a Book, to bring the books we’re reading alive.

      That being said I think you bring a very valid point that the Native People of the US and Canada are still very much here in the present continuing on with the traditions they have practiced for thousands of years in a very modern and changing world. From now on I promise to bring that perspective in when doing any indigenous book review. I look forward to going to your website and having a look at the Native American books you recommend. If there are books that you’d like to recommend that better reflect how Native people are living today, I’d be happy to have a look at them.

      Again I’m honored that you have taken the time to share your insights.

      Thank you again and all my best,

  4. I went to the website for the book and read the reviews there. Important people are quoted as finding the book valuable. But then, I saw one review by a Hopi woman who died in 1991. I thought “is this book that old? Did she review it before she died?” According to the Library of Congress, the book is a 2013 publication, so, I’m very skeptical now of all the reviews on the site.

    If I was going to review a book like it, that had old photos and quotes by Native people accompanying those photos, I’d do a number of things. First–who took the photos? A lot of those photos were done by Curtis, who staged photos. He carried around props so that Native people who didn’t have this or that regalia could use what he had. That means those photos are not authentic portrayals of the person in the photo, and, because those notes were not added to the photos, we don’t know which ones are authentic and which ones are not. In those old photos, too, there was a common practice in which the photographer would remove anything that wasn’t deemed authentic. If there was, for example, a watch in the person’s home, the photographer would take it out when he developed the photo.

    Second–I’d do some research on the quotes themselves. There’s a lot of misquoting out there, where you’ll find a quote or “proverb” attributed to several different people/tribes.

    Third–I’d make sure I used present tense in the review. Your sentence about how they vanished is what set me off.

    Fourth–I’d note that using sepia toned photos suggests we’re of the past, not the present. Course, the editor doesn’t have to include color photos, but I’d make sure to point out that there are color photos of us around, too, and that using only sepia is a disservice to the reader’s knowledge/growing knowledge about American Indians.

    1. Debbie, you bring up some very valid and critical points. As a book reviewer, I always have reasonable expectation that the author and publisher have done their homework. If you would like to email me directly, I can give you the contact name at Wisdom Tales press. I really think they need to know your viewpoint. Valarie(at)AudreyPress(dot)com.
      I will also remove/review the “vanishing” portion of the blog post. Thanks for your insight on that and my apologies. Looking forward to chatting further on this.

  5. Took another look at the reviews on their site. Either their way of quoting/presenting remarks by Native people is very sloppy, or its deliberately disingenuous. Maria Chona is no longer living, either! Yet, it looks like she endorsed the book!

    Because I’ve been studying and reviewing books by/about American Indians for a long time, I’ve learned that it is very hard for people of good will–like you–to be able to discern the good from the bad. For so very long, Native people/story has been presented by people who are not themselves Native. That means misinformation–even from those who mean well–is circulated/accepted as knowledge when it really isn’t. In the end, the ones who lose out are kids.

  6. As a publisher of multicultural books, Wisdom Tales Press makes every effort to honor and respect all peoples, their cultures, and spiritual practices. We also value constructive input from our readers. Regarding Debbie Reese’s recent posts, I have a few comments I would like to share in order to clarify some apparent misunderstandings:

    1) There are no quotes from deceased persons about Children of the Tipi. The quote Ms. Reese is referencing was written by Gerald Hausman, a well known storyteller and accomplished author of over 70 books, who is very much alive. It was Gerald Hausman who, within his endorsement, quotes sayings in the book by Maria Chona and several other American Indians. In no way has Wisdom Tales Press used deceased American Indians to endorse the book.
    Here is Gerald Hausman’s praise quote in its entirety from our website where it has solid black bars above and below it to distinguish Hausman’s quote from the other praise quotes on the same page:
    “Children of the Tipi: Life in the Buffalo Days, edited by Michael Oren Fitzgerald will tell you how The People lived, worked, played, hunted, told stories, and shared with one another. Maybe the sacred days of long ago are gone. Maybe not. Maybe they live on in beautiful books like this one where the days stretch endlessly before us and people of wisdom speak knowingly of the world they inhabit. Wisdom shines forth like this: ‘Women have power: Children. Can any warrior make a child, no matter how brave and wonderful he is?’ —Maria Chona (Papago).
    “Yes, ‘Life is different now,’ as Belle Highwalking (northern Cheyenne) tells us. ‘There are some people today that always lived in town. They will never know what it was like to live in the country.’
    “This lovely book full of fine photographs of the old days reminds us that the old ways were good because they were not always easy. ‘ … people were tough in those days.’ says Pretty Shield (Absaroke). But they prayed that goodness would follow them all the days of their lives. ‘We prayed that we might be beautiful in body, face, and heart. This protected us from evil. Then we had strength to meet the day and its problems.’ —Polingaysi Qoyawayma (Elizabeth White, Hopi).
    “To read a book that is full of wisdom is a privilege, and thanks to Michael Oren Fitzgerald, we can do that. To take the spirit of such a book and breathe it in, slowly and with reverence, is food for the mind that will cleanse the heart. That way the good days are still with us.”
    —Gerald Hausman, storyteller, educator, and author or co-author of more than 70 books such as The American Storybag, Time Swimmer, Turtle Dream: Collected Stories from the Hopi, Navajo, Pueblo, and Havasupai People, Three Little Birds, and The Jacob Ladder
    In light of this clarification, we would greatly appreciate if Ms. Reese would consider correcting her statements about this issue on this website, her website, and her Facebook page.
    2) Wisdom Tales takes great pride in the quality of its books and in being receptive to the needs of its readers. If Ms. Reese can find a specific example of a quote being attributed to the wrong person, she is welcome to bring this to my attention and we will work to correct this as soon as possible. We value and appreciate feedback from her and from other conscientious readers.
    3) We completely agree that images in the 19th and early 20th century were staged. However, one has to remember that photos taken during this period took several minutes to expose. As the technology did not allow more spontaneous “action” shots, Curtis and others had to “stage” or pose their subjects. Seeking authenticity, they also tried to depict the American Indian before the coming of the white settlers, thus without western dress and other such paraphernalia.
    4) Regarding Ms. Reese’s comments about the photos themselves, compelling books about current-day American Indians have been published, but this particular book is not focused on modern times. The whole idea behind Children of the Tipi: Life in the Buffalo Days is to provide contemporary children with the historical ideas and images of previous generations—before TV, computers, and video games. The book itself is very clear on this point. Without the use of historical photos, it would be an extremely difficult, if not impossible, message to share. However, the book actually does contain color photos of current American Indian children, and even finishes with the idea that the traditional ideas live on (thus they have not vanished). The last pages read: “The olden days have vanished … but many traditions live on.” The seven color photographs on the last pages are of modern American Indian children.

    In conclusion, Wisdom Tales stands behind the integrity of this book and our other books as well. We know the immense amount of research and editing that all of our authors and artists undertake and we always do our best to assure high standards of historical accuracy, beauty, and truth in the books before they go to press. Even so, errors can and will occasionally occur, and so we always appreciate the comments of well-informed and well-intentioned readers. We also very much appreciate the opportunity you’ve given us to respond to these comments.

    Mary-Kathryne Steele
    President, Wisdom Tales Press

    1. (Pasting here what I posted at AICL):

      Dear Ms. Steele,

      Thank you for your comments. I’ll address them here and make editorial notes in the review itself.

      Your first comment is about my criticism of the reviews on your website. I see what you mean about the reviews. Pointing out that horizontal line makes it clear to me that Hausman is quoting Chona and others. Nonetheless, within his review, new paragraphs that end with Chona’s and Qoyawayma’s names are what confused me. Course, I’m only one reader. But look at the cut/paste you did. See how you’ve got a paragraph that ends with “–Maria Chona (Papago) and then another one that ends with –Polingaysi Qoyawayma (Elizabeth White, Hopi) and then the final one that ends with “Gerald Hausman, storyteller…” I do think it needs a bit of editing for clarification. As such, I stand by my comment that formatting of that review is a problem.

      In your second comment, you invite me to let you know about quotes that are attributed to the wrong person. I didn’t say any of the quotes are incorrectly attributed. I didn’t check any of them. I assumed they are correct. That said, I don’t like that Fitzgerald edited them as he saw fit for the audience. What was left out or changed, I wonder?

      My concern with attribution has to do with the photographs, not the quotes. As I said, there are no attributions at all for the photographs. It is as though the people in the photo and their tribal nation does not matter. On page 27, there is a quote from Mourning Dove, a Salish woman. The photograph above it is Pueblo. I don’t recognize the photo to the right. Is it Salish? And the photo of the baskets. From what tribe do they originate? On page 21 is a quote from Polingaysi Qoyawayma, who was Hopi. The photograph above it is of Hopi women grinding corn, but there’s no note that says so. Beneath it are two photographs that are definitely not Hopi.

      In your third comment, you note that photographs of that time had to be staged due to the technology of the time. I agree. That is not my concern. I object to the staging wherein Curtis would ask a person to wear something that was not of his or her tribe, or, removing items that didn’t fit the photographers definition of “authenticity.” That definition, embraced by so many people today, gets turned into a “you’re not really Native if you have x, y, z, because real Indians didn’t have those things.” It contributes to an idea that being Native is about material culture rather than what it is in its totality. “Life in the buffalo days” (Fitzgerald’s subtitle) was far more than the romantic quotes and photos that he included in the book. From the beginnings of Native/European contact, diplomatic negotiations took place. The choice of photos for the book obscures us as self-governing nations of people. From those “buffalo days” there are photographs of Native leaders wearing Western attire (suits, for example) when they met with U.S. presidents.

      I understand that Wisdom Tales wanted to provide contemporary children (I assume the book was developed, intentionally or not, with a non-Native reader in mind) with images of previous generations (staged or not), but too many people hold a “vanished” Indian idea in their heads. Indeed, on page 36, the page title has “vanished” in the title.

      What we really need are books that feature Native people of today, not as artists or dancers or storytellers, but as scientists and doctors and political leaders, too. This is especially necessary for young children.

      Right now all over the US, people are ignoring the requests of Native people, organizations, associations, etc. that ask sporting programs to stop using things like “Redskins” and “Braves” for their mascots. Instead of listening to us, they argue that those mascots are a way to learn about Native peoples, or that they honor Native people.

      Part of my critique of Fitzgerald’s book rests upon his lack of information such that the young reader who uses his book will understand that the women grinding the corn on page 29 likely had children and grandchildren who are, today, citizens of the Hopi Nation.

      In your fourth comment, you note that the last pages of the book has color photographs. That is true. Across the top of that page the words read “…but many traditions live on.” Our traditions do continue, and while it is nice to see color photographs of children in their traditional regalia, it would also be great to see more depth on that end of the book. What tribe do those children belong to? What dance are they doing? When were those photos taken? Where? Without that tribally specific info and contact, the reader is left with “Indians dance” instead of, say “Lakota” or “jingle dance.”

      I’m grateful to you, Ms. Steele, for responding. I hope that our conversation is helpful to you as someone who publishes children’s books about American Indians.

      I encourage you and others to read the work of Native scholars and critics, and scholars critical of the ways that Native content is presented. My focus is children’s and young adult books. You could read scholarly journals like AMERICAN INDIAN QUARTERLY, or STUDIES IN AMERICAN INDIAN LITERATURES, or, WICAZO SA REVIEW. There are outstanding books, too, like Seale and Slapin’s A BROKEN FLUTE; THE NATIVE EXPERIENCE IN BOOKS FOR CHILDREN.

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