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.”


The Knife That Growls…

by forrest fenn

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




This Sioux medicine knife was born for action.



It was not a domestic accessory to be used around the tepee and it wasn’t a skinner. It was Indian-made about 1850 for use in hand-to-hand combat. While in the slashing fist of its master it had neither soul nor pity.


The bear-jaw haft insinuated a ferocity that provided an edge when the margin between life and death rode a thin line.




“The best offense is a good defense.”



Oral history among the Hunkpapa Sioux speaks of a Lakota brave who, while holding such a weapon at ready, found himself in a precipitous position. Three hated Crow Indian warriors, wearing grim faces, were drawing near. Upon hearing the knife roar “approach at your own peril,” the warriors turned and fled, not being willing to test the supremacy of the bear.




by forrest fenn

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



Reliquary – a container wherein sacred relics are kept.

Although I am not a Catholic I enjoy studying their colorful history and objects of veneration.


Carved on the face of this eight-inch wooden reliquary cross are the Instruments of the Passion; tools used in Christ’s Crucifixion.

When the early Spanish explorers set out to conquer the new world many carried small devotional items to comfort them on their long and perilous journey. The most common articles were reliquaries, some of which held a splinter from The Cross, or a small bone fragment from a saint. But mostly not. More likely they contained objects associated with lesser religious figures or favored items of piety.


The horizontal banner slides out to reveal two relics wrapped in linen.


The vertical banner will then slip out to expose a delicately arranged assemblage of religious chattels that are resting on a bouquet of tiny blue ceramic flowers. The white wax seal near the top represents the Lamb of God, a symbol for Christ.


In the center is a small carved stone likeness of The Virgin Mary with the Christ Child. Daintily curled gold and silver wires hold the effects safely in place and secure.


On the reverse is the crucifixion of Christ, except Christ has gone. He just isn’t there anymore. On the head of the cross are the traditional letters INRI, and at the foot, a skull and crossed bones that signify Skull Hill, the place where the Lord was crucified, and where Adam was buried.

Oral history of the family from whom I acquired this cross, forty-years ago, tells that it rode into the new world in the pocket of Diego de Vargas who arrived in 1692, and became the Spanish Governor of the New Spain territory of Santa Fe de Nuevo Mexico.


What relics hide beneath the six linen shrouds in this special cross reliquary? Who carved it with loving fingers and filled its stomach with items of religious reverence?

The answers to these questions lay deep within the forgotten history of lives that have disappeared from our view, and from an olden era that can no longer speak. But would that it could.