by forrest fenn
These vignettes from Forrest’s collection are only to share. To see 294 additional pieces please visit
There’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.”