WOMAN CHIEF by Rose Sobol


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Some readers may be offended that I have not detailed at length the nonviolent side of Crow society,"" says Sobol in her foreword. And that would certainly be the reaction were not the daring and occasionally grizzly warrior's exploits she describes performed by a woman. Unlike other Plains Indian women who sometimes left their domestic duties to ride into battle, Women Chief, apparently as exceptional as her name suggests, devoted her whole life to the masculine arts of horsemanship, hunting, and combat. Although she always wore female attire, Woman Chief was accepted as a leader of war parties and a high-ranking member of the war council, and after she failed to find a husband among the braves, she was allowed to marry a woman and eventually became a householder with three wives. Sobol's simply, even starkly, fictionalized account, based on the diary of a white trader who knew her, mixes respect for Woman Chief's individual accomplishments with a vivid, unapologetic picture of a way of life based on small scale raiding parties and horse stealing. We'd have to agree that more information about ""the nonviolent"" aspects of Crow society would be helpful, especially in understanding the acceptance accorded Woman Chief's choice of the male lifestyle. But if Sobol fails to answer all the questions her subject raises, her plainspoken admiration and avoidance of anthropological commentary or editorial judgments is probably the most sensible way to treat so singular a subject.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1976
Publisher: Dial