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The Way to Independence: Memories of a Hidatsa Indian Family, 1840-1920

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A unique exploration of the Hidatsa people, material culture, spirituality, and adaptations, through the stories of respected elders from more than a century ago.

In the 1910s, in the small Hidatsa settlement of Independence, North Dakota, Buffalo Bird Woman, her brother Wolf Chief, and her son Goodbird welcomed anthropologist Gilbert Wilson into their homes and shared stories and memories of Hidatsa life and traditions reaching back more than 65 years. With Goodbird acting as interpreter, Wilson carefully recorded their words, took photographs, and collected artifacts. Together, these stories and images provide a rare glimpse into the Hidatsa people and culture.

The Way to Independence is a powerful and personal description of the Hidatsa people’s journey from a traditional clan-oriented society of the 1840s to the industrialized, individualistic world of twentieth-century America. Through the words of Buffalo Bird Woman and her family, and using hundreds of stunning photographs of artworks and artifacts, this book tells the story of the tribe. Authors Carolyn Gilman and Mary Jane Schneider provide both text and illustrations to explore the material culture, spirituality, and adaptations of the Hidatsa people during a time of tremendous change.

Throughout these years, the Hidatsa coped with these radical changes, but they never surrendered to them. They adopted many white political and religious institutions, but those institutions took on a Hidatsa flavor; similarly, they used the tools of the industrialized world, but they produced Hidatsa things with them. Thus the people found their way to a new kind of independence.

In a separate section of the book, several experts on the Hidatsa contribute essays discussing the tribe’s origins, religion, and natural environment, as well as the Hidatsa studies of Gilbert Wilson and his brother Frederick. This book, first published to accompany a major exhibition at the Minnesota Historical Society, continues to provide a vital story of a resilient and creative people.

ISBN-13: 9780873512091

Media Type: Paperback

Publisher: Minnesota Historical Society Press

Publication Date: 05-02-2023

Pages: 371

Product Dimensions: 8.50(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.00(d)

Series: Museum Exhibit Series #3

Carolyn Gilman is a historian and museum exhibit developer specializing in frontier and Native history. She is the author of Lewis and Clark: Across the Divide and five other books on aspects of Native American and western history. She has worked as an exhibition developer at the Minnesota Historical Society, the Missouri History Museum, and the National Museum of the American Indian. She was curator of the National Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Exhibition, which toured the United States in 2004 to 2006. Mary Jane Schneider was appointed the first chair of the Department of Indian Studies at the Universityof North Dakota and also served as a professor of Indian Studies. She previously worked at the Stovall Museum at the Universityof Oklahoma and was director of the Museum of Anthropology at the Universityof Missouri. Schneider was named a Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor at UND and awarded the McDermott Award for Excellence in Teaching, Research, Creative Activity and Service. She retired from the university in 2003 as professor emeritus. That same year, she received the Distinguished Service Award from the Plains Anthropological Society.