THEY CALL ME AGNES by Fred W. Voget

THEY CALL ME AGNES

A Crow Narrative Based on the Life of Agnes Yellowtail Deernose
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 The life of one Crow woman and the story of her tribe are combined in this ethnographic autobiography with mixed results. Voget (Anthropology/Southern Illinois Univ.; The Shoshoni-Crow Sun Dance, not reviewed) first encountered the Crow Indians of Montana in 1939, when he did fieldwork among them as a graduate student. On that trip, he met Donnie and Agnes Deernose, a husband- and-wife team who became his principal informants. (Donnie died from complications following an auto accident.) Voget relates Agnes's story in the first person. Born on the Crow Reservation in 1908, she experienced what was in many ways a typical Crow Indian life. She closely describes Indian households, sacred rituals, clothing, and schooling. She also tells of her courtship and marriage--and related rituals--and, in a poignant chapter, tells of Donnie's accident, lingering death, and her life as a widow. A recurring theme is the conflict between American/Christian customs and traditional ways. (Agnes herself was both baptized and initiated into the Tobacco Society.) She talks of one Baptist minister who was amused by the story of a Crow warrior who came to church wearing shoes, long johns, and a high hat--an illustration of the difficulty many Indians found adapting to Anglo-American customs. Compromises were eventually reached, however. For example, the cycle of the Crow year has evolved into a mixture of American/Christian holidays and traditional tribal ceremonies. Voget, in an introduction, delineates exactly what additional material he has added to Agnes's story in order to flesh it out and appears to remain faithful to Agnes's narrative. Although the social science and personal reminiscences are sometimes uneasy bedfellows, readers will learn much from this strong woman's compelling and informative story.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-8061-2695-7
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Univ. of Oklahoma
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1995