TASUNKA by Donald F. Montileaux


A Lakota Horse Legend
retold by ; illustrated by ; translated by
Age Range: 6 - 10
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Montileaux, a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation, adapts the legend of the tribe’s domestication of the horse in this bilingual English-Lakota edition.

A young warrior hunting game discovers a thundering herd of horses. Following them for weeks, he learns their behavior. “He wanted to catch one so that he could travel as fast as the wind.” After training the creatures, he triumphantly returns to his tribe’s camp. Using the horses for hunting, the tribe not only enriches itself, but begins to dominate other tribes. “The Great Spirit looked on in sadness. Tasunka, the horse, had been his gift to all the people. Instead, one tribe was…growing wealthy while others were going hungry, so the Great Spirit took the gift away.” Only centuries later, with the legend deeply woven into the tribe’s culture, does the horse return. (Its reintroduction is shown in scenes of the fateful migration of European-Americans across the continent.) Montileaux renders the expansive plains in greens, blues, reds and browns, intensifying color to heighten drama, as in a scene of a buffalo hunt. In one spread depicting tribal storytelling about Tasunka, a campfire illuminates drawings of horses amid evening’s purple shadows. Throughout, the striking, many-hued horses gallop, manes flowing, their powerful haunches tapering into thin, elegantly inked lines.

The simply told legend, brilliant illustrations and handsome book design combine for a compelling, important work. (illustrator’s note, further reading list) (Folk tale. 6-10)

Pub Date: April 1st, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-9852905-2-8
Page count: 48pp
Publisher: South Dakota State Historical Society Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2014


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