Indian Crafts & Lore (2024)


1,009 reviews11 followers

February 8, 2021

I found this at my library's bookstore for $1 and I snatch up anything to do with Native Americans. Reading the summary, about the inclusion of directions for ritual dances that allow you to get the feel of Indian life, I wondered what Native Americans think of that.

It was cool that there was a list of all of the Native American tribes and names with the ways to pronounce them. I really liked the part about the author, how as a boy the Wild West Show set up near his home and the Indians would put up their tents out back behind the circus tent and he would try to talk to them but they wouldn't. Until he mentioned that there were rabbits around and then they started hunting them. What a story to tell.

They let him into their teepees and made stew with the rabbits. A chief even invited him into the tent and he never had to pay to get into the show. I loved learning about life back then and that he was the envy of all the other kids and he came to be considered an expert on Indian crafts and things.

It was nice and an important part that they pointed out the goal wasn't to be like Indians or copy their work, it's about admiring their dances and crafting your own as best you can. Basically, they know it's not authentic and don't want people to think they're claiming to be.

The book lost me when I realized this was a national club almost. Apparently there were Indian lore groups that kids were a part of and they're laying out the rules that you have to participate at least one night a week, making your crafts and going to museums and Indian ceremonials. Idk how things were in the 1950s but I can tell you now that this would never fly. If you brought a paper costume or what have you and tried to dance in a ceremony you would probably get kicked out. Things have definitely changed a lot and the space between respect and insult isn't very big. I found it hard to believe that Indians used this themselves, and I bet none of them do now. I can only imagine how insulting a book like this is and I bet most don't want white people imitating their dances and trying to dress like them. When he got to the part about choosing how many chiefs, braves and medicine men I was cringing.

I was lost as he said coup feathers should be awarded based on the points system and not the dollar system.

I loved the drawing of North America and the tribe names affording to what area they existed. I love things like that.

I can't say anything about the crafts because I didn't try to make them, but the instructions did look hard.

I thought it was odd that he said Indians didn't wear war shirts and that was something white people came up with and yet he titled the page "War Shirts." Why give in to the misconception?

When he said most people choose a design that's too hard and "Be smart" in choosing a design I got insulted. As well as when he said "Many authentic Indian beadwork designs are unpleasing to the white man, so do not use them." Wow. That sounded so snobbish. Like he elitist "white man" usually finds their designs displeasing, and if anything displeases us, we simply change it. You would be wise to do the same. There was a better way to say that. Maybe something like if you find you don't like the authentic designs, you can change them a little to suit your own tastes.

I couldn't believe when I saw that kids were supposed to paint themselves to look like Indians. That would absolutely never fly today. No way would Indians allow you to take part in their dances especially with your face painted dark. You'd get cussed out, then thrown out.

I couldn't believe the crafts he thought boys could accomplish. Just go out and carve you a telephone pole to make your own totem pole. Just take some wood and make your own hoops, drums, even make your own teepee! It's crazy cuz all of the crafts looked so hard and confusing and let me tell you, no Indian would appreciate white people painting themselves to appear Indian, making paper and cloth costumes and joining in on their traditional dances. You CANNOT paint your face brown to mimic another race. That is not okay. They wouldn't consider any of this respect. They would be insulted and affronted that white people were trying to join in on their culture in such a cheap way. I didn't get the book to do the projects but for the information. I thought there would be a lot more information but it turned out to be too much on the crafts and not enough info for me. The crafts themselves looked impossible to make. Idk how he expected boys to carve and cut and sew and paint. One of them had you making your own loom for Pete's sake. If you're not a master craftsman idk how you could make any of these with any satisfaction, but the beadwork looked particularly impossible. As for the dances I couldn't understand the steps and everything was just too confusing to duplicate. This is a nice look at what passed in the 1950s but nowadays we've been made aware of what they consider offensive and this is a thing of the past that's best left in the past. I don't think you can make these items and you shouldn't try, because, sadly, if you're not Indian you're pretty much an outcast to the culture except as a spectator.

It’s out of date and no longer useful, but there is some good information on Indian tribes. I should've known when I first came on here and added this as currently reading and read that some of the original articles, "however well-intentioned as a sincere appreciation of Native American ways, should no longer be duplicated." That was a red flag and I wonder what on earth was worse than painting your face brown or saying a lot of authentic beadwork doesn't appeal to the "white man" and to change it. Plainly put, this is from an era of ignorance where racism might not have been obvious or even realized, but it was there all the same. If it's offensive to the host culture, then there's some credence to it and it should be done away with. I wish I wouldn't have even bought it.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.


63 reviews

September 8, 2020

Nearly 45 years ago, I carried this book to the school's library desk, waited for the librarian to stamp the return date inside, and ran off to class. I don't know how many times I checked this book out, but I'm pretty sure there were months at a time when no one else could find it on the shelf. Growing-up in rural Maryland, my home flanked by forest, I was fascinated by Indians (e.g., American Indians, Native Americans). I read everything that the school library had on them, which wasn't much. I wanted nothing more than to find an old arrowhead while walking down a stream bed. It never happened. The next best thing was to read Hunt's "Indian Crafts & Lore" and learn how to manufacture/culturally appropriate (long before I was even aware of the concept) all the trappings myself. I collected vulture and pheasant feathers (I couldn't find turkeys) and even helped my father skin a rabbit once, but the dog ended-up eating the salted hide. I even ran through the woods with a makeshift loincloth and my face "war-painted" with my mom's cosmetics. It's a bit cringey to think on it now.

That being said, it was such an important part of my childhood that I recently managed to obtain a 1972 copy of the book (24th printing) on eBay. Browsing through the crafts, I'm amazed that my 8-year old self believed he could make such things! The book is packed with difficult projects with only the most rudimentary instructions. I suspect no child ever successfully made the projects from this book, but perhaps that was never the real intention. The fact that I once dreamt I could make those things and somehow fade into the woods forever--is probably why I remember it so fondly.

"It should be pointed out here that the purpose of Indian lore is not to be like Indians, but to enjoy some of their dancing and crafts."

    americana bookshelf


50 reviews

March 7, 2022

While there is some valuable information in the instructions for certain crafts, I found most to be incomplete.
Additionally, the inclusion of certain other crafts and activities (dances, etc...) feels like a large overstep.

I will leave my review at that, keeping in mind that it was originally written and published in the '5o's.


132 reviews8 followers

August 16, 2012

A childhood favorite of mine, this 1954 classic by W. Ben Hunt, legendary outdoorsman, and expert on Native American artistry and scoutcrafts. He was born in 1888 in Wisconsin and, as the story goes, saw Buffalo Bill's Wild West show when it came to his town. Intrigued by the Native American performers, he tried desperately to get their attention, but they had no time for a small boy. He had the brilliant idea of asking one of them if they wouldn't like fresh meat after all that time of living on stored provisions? A lively rabbit hunt ensued, and Ben was invited to be their honored guest at the performances. Thus began a lifelong study of Native American crafts and lore. His desire to preserve and promote what he called "the only truly American arts" led him to study with noted leaders such as Chief Gogeoweosh, Black Elk, and "Buck" Burshears. He wrote many articles for scouting magazines and had a talent for describing projects in clear, easy-to-understand language. This book contains many projects suitable for all ages, each is clearly outlined and beautifully illustrated (he was also an artist and designer, so he sketched each project after completing it) It's nice that Hunt describes them for both boys and girls; early scouting was perhaps less gender-divided that it was in my childhood in the 70s, when Girl Scouts didn't do much woodcraft or outdoorsy stuff. An excellent diversity of tribes is represented - for example, the moccassin instructions include several different types, with clear descriptions of how they suited the enviroment of the original wearers. Of course, Hunt uses materials that were avaiable to 20th century Native Americans - tanned leather, seed beeds, steel needles, and so forth - yet he also includes instructions for making buttons from elk horns and other traditional techniques. The projects, while authentic in spirit, are not actual reconstructions of historic Native American items. Nevertheless, they are wonderful projects for middle-school aged children, and include much history and background regarding Native Americans. While children today are probably not self-sufficient enough to complete these projects on their own, this book could help to unplug them from their electronic devices and show them the joys of the outdoors, of crafsmanship, and of the fascinating traditions and wonderful artistry of the original Americans.

Indian Crafts & Lore (2024)


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