Green Grass…

by forrest fenn

These vignettes from Forrest’s collection are only to share. To see 294 additional pieces  please visit


buffaloThere’s no such place as Green Grass, Montana, but that’s where Joe Rivera said he acquired this Sun Dance buffalo skull. He admitted later that Green Grass was a generic term that was sometimes used by his friend when he didn’t want to discuss something further. “Oh, it’s from Green Grass,” the Sioux supposed when he gave the skull to Joe.


Joe suggested that I hang the skull over the fireplace in my library so the faint smoke-smell could keep it alive, Joe was like that. He was the only Puerto Rican/American ever adopted into the Rosebud Sioux tribe. I wrote a story about Joe in my book, Too Far to Walk. He’s buried on the Sioux reservation in South Dakota.


The Sioux believed that bones of the bison they’d killed would rise again with new flesh, and the herds would be replenished. Their skulls were used as alters during the Sun Dance. In the ceremony offerings were presented to the skull and sweet grass was stuffed in the eyes and nose sockets to represent bountiful grazing, which would allow the vast buffalo herds to return.

Sweet grass was also placed in the eye sockets before each Hunting Dance. It made the skulls blind to the dance so they couldn’t warn the buffalo that hunters were coming after them.



I found this buffalo in a very remote area above Marble Canyon in Arizona. It was the smallest bull in the herd. I kept the skull and gave the meat to a Navaho family. This photo shows an arrogant would-be mountain man bragging about his trophy. If I had that hunt to do over again, I’d leave my rifle at home.


This Bison Antiquus skull may be 8,000-years old. Sometime during the last few hundred years it was found by an Indian and painted with Sun Dance symbols.

Buffalo provided the Plains Indians with nearly everything they needed to subsist, from clothing to food. Tepees were made from their skins and their bones were shaped into tools and religious objects.


“This is Twana, one of three pets that I purchased from a slaughter sale at Ft. Wingate, NM. They sure ate a lot of hay. When our big bull jumped the fence and gored a prize Arabian stallion, I gave my small herd to a rancher in Texas who promised to let the animals “roam the prairie.”

Spirituality was very important to the Plains Indian tribes who lived in close harmony with the soil, and symbolism was fundamental to their survival. It has always been my desire, and intention, to respect all of their beliefs, some of which I subscribe to personally.

My wife and I once witnessed a Sun Dance on the Crow Reservation in Montana. We were allowed to enter the circle after being smudged by the smoke from burning sage.

I was surprised to see that most of the dancers were not natives, but white men. When I sought answers from an old Crow woman, whose arms were bleeding from self-inflicted knife cuts, she said, “When the white man cannot find solace in his own religion, he comes to us for the truth.”


84 thoughts on “Green Grass…

  1. Such different views and beliefs in your area with the Native Americans:

    Talk about a few of these things in are area;

    Are missionaries require one to learn to speak the Native language and to be respectful and caring of their believes and customs.

    They are free to choice their own lives……….One doesn’t have to force anything upon them.

    • Also believe Fenn while you do many things in public out of charity, know you have done more in private then people can imagine. Like that no one will ever know about those things.

      While Tony only spent a week with you after 4 years you kinda get to know someone a little bit.

      Admire how you collect things relating to Native Americans yet at the same time you don’t mishandle these things:)

      Like yourself no one is perfect. Your not my idol rather someone to strive past.



    • Rick, I agree, if you believe in the Biblical God, free will is one of His greatest gifts to mankind. No belief system should ever be forced or coerced upon anyone. IMO religions are mostly man’s ideas or rules about God and have been forced upon people. Truth and spirituality are different and God is patient in allowing discovery and understanding of the One Great Spirit. In depth understanding of a culture is paramount. I downloaded your reference to the book of hope; it looks interesting.

  2. That’s so funny, I was just searching Green Grass, MT the day before yesterday after looking through the Fenn Collection on Splendid Heritage. No wonder I couldn’t find it. I loved looking through the collection but learning some history about the artifacts makes them all the more interesting to me. I am loving all this information. Thank you Mr. Fenn.

  3. Why leave your rifle at home?? Second why are you posting these stories on a blog about the treasure? What does it have to do with it?

    • He is saying that he wouldn’t have killed the buffalo back then, if he knew how much he would love and respect it later.

      As for why he posted it – well if any of us knew that one, we would probably be one treasure chest richer.

      I guess it is up to you to find the clue in there.

    • bob-
      Why do you even bother to visit this blog or to comment if you can’t understand the value of learning about the man who’s hidden treasure chest is your avatar?

      • I think they are treasures in their own right… That first one hanging by the fire is simply beautiful! Its like artwork with a soul and meaning representative of their deep and meaningful culture. If only more white men had learned from the Indian and not taken so much we all might be better off today… imho

      • I remember as a boy finding out my Dad was adopted, and my real Grand mother was from Montana. Her name is Beatrice Iva Lou Castle Copland” , she was a full blooded Indian. It would explain my wild side.
        So, I always day dreamed of as a boy of a Garden,where I could play with Tigers and Bears ,and they wouldn’t hurt me. I have always had a deep feeling with nature and a deep regard for the Father known also by the American Indian, but as in the “White mans ” Religion I don’t know. As for the regards of Humanity , it has been understood through one of the Ancients by the giving of his own life. “If a man Smite you on one side of your face , allow him the other”
        To smite some one is to SLAPP them with the side of your Sword across the face leaving two cuts on your face and marked, forever.This was a Great insult at that time. So , you can see the depth of the statement. I cannot dismiss this concept , due to the fact of truth in it’s logic.
        One who teaches love hears truth. I also like the Indian stories of creation, they are similar to what I was thought.
        So Mr. Fenn I wrote you a Small
        Story of the Creation.The story my dad told me. Mixed with my understanding and a little embellishment . If you would allow me:
        The Cave Of Treasures

        The Father one day reached down and thup, spit in his hand and squatted down, picked up some dirt and molded me out of the ground in side the Cave of Treasures . He molded me in his favor, and he liked what had made and let me sleep a little while he was finishing up his work.
        So, when I awoke and crawled out
        of the soil, and was in The Cave of Treasures which was high in the country side tucked in under a overhanging rock ,and I saw for the first time the Splendor of his likeness and the sound of his voice ,as he named me.

        My Father held me by my hand ,I looked like him and he like wise and said come. He lead me along A winding collection of streams of every bright color and they were along the Western boarder of The Great Garden where I was created. As we walked I was in lighten by Father why here in the Great Garden I was Created. The Broad fields , and high mountains were shelter for forests they could grow and creation thrive.
        As we walked I saw a Massive tree on top
        of The Great Mountain, so large that it could house all of Creation with Her arms. Her splendor was unyielding and she comforted all. Her Fruit was of every kind and what ever ate of it Lived forever.
        As we got closer , the Animals came closer to us and Father asked me to name them, so I did .
        One of his favorite of his creation was the Bear. Their cubs would chase me and bite at my ankles. I loved that .
        The streams were now flowing back and fourth and combined into only 4 of the hundreds that were crisscrossing in every direction. These Streams had a clearness unto the clearness of the clearest deepest blue and was surrounded by Giant golden flowers. Which housed beautiful glowing birds which sang unto us as we passed.
        As we approached The Great Mountain
        I saw Her Resting at the edge of the cliff. Her glory stunned all of creation as she sang to creation. ” He is hear The first of the Father, Created in his likeness, bright as the Sun with white hair. He will never Pass. All Creation wept. I could see the Root in which the spring came from and by it’s clearness you could see into the depths of the earth and all which were in it.Glitter of gold flowed from the springs covered by Red and Green stones that shined light the stars. Then Father Kissed me on the fore head Son this is for You and we Danced with all creation around the Tree Of Life.
        THE END
        Just a short story for you Sir. I hope you liked it. Take care Brother F.

      • I didn’t write this story but for Mr. Fenn. He has shown me through his eyes beautiful places, and even within my self.
        Plus he set me straight once , that’s why I call my self Mr.D Forrest called me this in a Email. So, I kept it and it is my new nick name.
        The story refers to a lost book , kept secret by the Catholic church. Needless to say , the Story of the Indians are very similar and is why they accepted us as first when we arrived on this Land again. Yellowstone and the Spring there, hot,Clear as the clearest blue , and every kind of medicine from flowers and plenty to eat.
        The beautiful Mountains and streams , this place sounded like the First Garden and is why I shared it. Not to press any belief, but, encourage the intertwining stories of these two people. I will say that I’m personally
        not happy about how we were treated by Europeans !
        I still like sitting Bull, understand all will, one day Dance around the Tree of Life again as Brothers.

    • I think the post speaks for itself. He said the Indians used every part of the Buffalo for their survival. Forrest, IMO, killed the buffalo for other reasons, which he regrets (although he did give the meat to a Navajo family). He’s saying if he had the chance to do it again, he wouldn’t.

      There is a morality lesson here.

      I believe there is a hint or two about the treasure, as well as the possibility of some purposefully and carefully answered questions to some of the musings happening recently on the blog.

      And, I believe if you want to find the treasure, the best way is to get to know the man who hid it. This is his way of giving us the opportunity to “know” him.

    • I abide by this; I will never know where a man has been until I walk a mile in his shoes. Now if you do not understand that metaphor we can stretch you as a viable contender for the treasure. 🙂

  4. Took a walk around Walden Pond yesterday in the rain with no one around. No grass there just a pile of rocks to mark the annual pilgrimage to the Thoreau homesite.

    One day I imagine we will take rocks with Forrest quotes to location the chest is found and gather to share stories of transformation.

  5. My daughter attended school on the Santo Domingo reservation, for one year. She is dark-skinned, and was easily accepted by the children as one of their own. That year, she was allowed to dance for the Governor of the tribe, during their “Christmas” celebration.

    To anyone’s knowledge, it was the first and only time a non-native tribe member was allowed to participate in the dance. I still have the decorative outfit they made for her to wear, but sadly we had to return the beautiful moccasins, because they were on loan.

    After the dance that night, our family was showered with gifts from some of the other families. I received a blanket, and my daughter was given a beautiful silver and turquoise bracelet, both of which I still have. The generosity of complete strangers humbled me greatly. I felt ashamed and undeserving for not having gifts in return, but I felt very grateful for the kindness we received.

    That was more than ten years ago. I have returned to the pueblo since, for their fall harvest festival, and have grown to respect this culture very much. I wish I had a culture and history as rich as theirs.

  6. As a child and in school I had close friends that were both Southern utes and Navajo. Still have those friends today and still call them. A person couldn’ t ask for better kind of person. Most if you befriend they would give you the shirt off there back if they thought you needed it.

  7. Forrest… I love the Buffalo sculls. I always did like buffalo. A few years back I was hunting in Southpark Colo. I experienced a big herd of buffalo that were on the run close to where I stood. It sure is a strange feeling when the ground rumbles under you. It made me realize just how massive and majestic they are.

  8. I see you are still sprinkling out some tidbits for everyone to digest.

    Yes Forrest ; live ,mature and learn from it.

    We cannot change what we have done.
    But if we all learn something to promote the better.
    Then maybe just maybe some will listen.

    The Shameful Buffalo Slaughter by The United States

    “To make matters worse for wild buffalo, some U.S. government officials actively destroyed bison to defeat their Native American enemies who resisted the takeover of their lands by white settlers. American military commanders ordered troops to kill buffalo to deny Native Americans an important source of food”

  9. Forrest–Did the Arabian survive? What do the dots and stripes symbolize? What did they use for dyes? Love the stories–more please. Thank you for sharing your treasures.

  10. Thank you Forrest, your life’s experience is revealed by, your reverence for life.
    Consider this, the native americans that received the gift of buffalo meat were able to eat and thus continue to live to carry on their heritage.

    So is the cycle of life, gratitude for and reverence for what nature provides demonstrates our awareness of greater things at work in this world.

    • Btw, I love the smell of sweet grass…and sweet pipe tobacco. I keep some of both to burn, on occasion, when I’m tinkering in the garage. My wife won’t let me burn it in the house. I still have a braid of sweet grass and a small bundle of sage that I bought at the Fort Bridger Rendezvous over 25 years ago. I bought a tomahawk/ax there at the same time that I still haven’t finished working on. One day…

  11. My fathers family homested was at the bottom of a Buffalo run, out of Mandan North Dakota, along the Hart river. The family used to collect all of the bones and sell them during the depression. I remember as a child visiting the farm going up on the hill above the house and collecting the arrowheads remaining around the old campfires. Before we left for the last time my father collected a bunch of buffalo skulls to bring back home. He then decorated the garden in the front yard with them. I thought it was hilarious.
    My father had also been a hunter of all creatures. I remember him hanging a dear in out garage and skinning it. Once he had pursuing some antalope in Montana. He picked out a doe and shot it dead. The buck stopped in his tracks and with a telepathic hate looked my father in the eye and expressed his anger. My father was completely taken back by that experience, and never hunted again. I have heard the same from other hunters that dared look a deer in the eye. The connection with nature is not a small thing. It is spiritual, for better or worse. I will take their word for it, and just experience it with a marvel gaze.

    • That buck spoke and your dad listened. Wow.

      Just wondering, might you remember the Martins of Mandan? Lewis Martin was a conductor on the Union Pacific RR.

  12. My father and brother quit hunting years ago. They enjoy the thrill of seeing a magnificent animal and counting the points, but only fire shots from a camera these days.

    Forrest was obviously a crack shot with pilot’s vision – a born hunter in an era when men hunted and we’re proud of it. That is still true in many western states. He discussed in his memoir that he gave up hunting while fighting for his life during cancer. IMO he may have felt hunted by death and no longer cared to sacrifice life for the thrill of a trophy.

  13. (80 x 2; several doubles there. I especially like the green and rose flower, maybe art nouveau?)

    A doe’s eyes stared at me from the wall since I was a tot. I didn’t ask until later but it came from my Dad’s hunting trip to Canada with some other young bucks when he was single. It might have been the thing to do, but he never hunted game again. (Pheasants and fish, yes.)

    I remember reading that a native hunter would make eye contact with his prey, asking and receiving permission, before killing it. Wish I remember where I read it.

  14. **Attention All Searchers**
    So I live in Philadelphia and I cannot make trips upon trips to the rocky mountains when I like. So I am thinking about getting a group of people together(10,15 maybe 20) That would like to search all over the Rocky’s and camp outside and travel around all summer next year. We could share our resources and share the treasure if found. Maybe we could start in June and end in August…now that would be an adventure! I like the movie “Without a paddle” where a few friends go on an adventure for gold and they really make it an adventure…. I think that is how you would have to do it…. Make it a really memorable time with 10,15,20 people traveling around like hippies and really make it a whole summer adventure…
    Anyone interested in this let me know!

    • “Without a Paddle” is an awesome movie, Clues. They found D.B. Coopers loot!!! How awesome would that be? They also got to see some incredible “scenery”…(downstairs. wink. wink. knowhatimean? Say no more!) 🙂 Unfortunately, my wife has seen that movie, also…and loves it. That’s exactly why she would never let me go. LOL!

  15. Well, we hunt and fish still in my family. I use the bones, skin, and skulls for decoration, jewelry, etc. The meat and fish are used by us as well. I feel in today’s world with all of the antibiotics and grow quick crap etc that they put in meats and vegetables, it is best to grow your own and hunt and fish your own. I don’t do the hunting, because I wouldn’t be able to, but I don’t mind the rest. We grow our own garden as well. We also buy fishing licenses and hunting licenses and feed the animals to help all of them, not just the ones that we kill. It’s important to give back what you take. There are limits to all that you can take and we stick to it. To each his own, live and let live.

  16. I agree Carolyn, I feel the same way about that. The most important thing we can do is to give back. Give back to the earth and to people. Pay it forward and be of good service to those in need and that goes for all the earths creatures. That is cool that you make jewelry out of bones. I would like to see this!
    I think forrest gave back when he hid the chest!
    Lou Lee, chased by bears in jellystone Park

    • Carolyn, I agree with you as well. I could not shot a deer unless it was my only option but I do chose to grow my own garden. Nothing better than that! My Grandparents will be celebrating their 73rd anniversary tomorrow and they always had a garden, a good wood pile and each other… What more could you want out of life…:)

  17. What a wonderful collection of bison skulls. I especially love the one decorated for the Sun Dance and stuffed with sweet grass. The Native American tribes have a rich culture and it almost makes me cry thinking of how they have been treated and how institutions and the government tried to suppress and eliminate their culture, religion, way of life, language, and even them, by many different means.

    I can understand your regret about shooting that little buffalo as there are not that many of them any more but hunting other mammals is necessary in many states to keep the animal populations in check. There were about 500,000 white-tailed deer in the early 1900’s but with good conservation, managed hunting seasons, and lack of predators, the numbers have swelled to over 20 million and in some areas there are now too many for the land to support. We keep trying to fix our mistakes and find a balance. 🙂

  18. If I had a tame buffalo I’d name it Sleeping Beauty.It would be a pretty big pet.. 🙂 or maybe Sitting Bull would work.

  19. The photo of Forrest w/his fresh kill is noteworthy because it tells part of the story of the man and what drove him to where he is now. That picture would probably not exist if he was hunting because he needed to. The hunters I grew up w/ never took photos. My dad was a subsistence hunter(by choice) until just a few months before he passed. I did not take that path in my life, but I do understand the difference. Thanks for sharing that personal info Forrest. It paints a clearer picture as to who you are.

  20. Mr. Fenn,
    Hopefully I will get back to the poem but I keep getting hooked by these stories. I have several questions. Why do you have two copies of books on your bookshelf?
    Don’t like reading the same book twice? What are they yellow dots for under the books? I notice there is not a dot under the book about the Flute. Can’t quite read the titles of the older books.

      • Well if my dad doesn’t do something quick he too will end up another statistic on a page. I’ve warned him. He failed the stress test and it’s clear to me he has Coronary artery disease. Hates doctors and won’t go any further with testing.

  21. Posted earlier the other day:

    “Such different views and beliefs in your area with the Native Americans”

    Thought about it last night. Ohio has no Indian Reservations. The Indian culture out in New Mexico is a part of the identity and way of live there. It still lives and thrives there unlike it does in Ohio.

    Therefore vast differences and developments of these Native American cultures.

    Especially in the areas of the arts.


  22. Its my understanding the sun dance was a ritual performed as a boys becoming men where they would place a pole in the middle and long raw hide ropes would be fastened with some type of prong through their chest skin and they remain there for a week with no food or water – not a great way of a right of passage is it…

  23. @ Geydelkon – the video of you and your bride in Cody is great. Nice of you to share it on the blog. Cold play’s Yellow was the perfect song choice. Have you celebrated first year anniversary yet?

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