The Golden Book of Indian Crafts and Lore was a gift to my partner from his father who had just returned from a business trip to the U.S. Looking back, it must have seemed so overwhelmingly romantic and exotic to a young boy living in chilly proper Dundee and Edinburgh, and also very exciting.
Exciting if only from the point of view that he is nothing if not immensely creative and would have straightaway wanted to go to the art shop to buy everything for every project. These years were the time when the Western became normal fare in Britain at the flicks and in black and white on TV so this book must have seemed like a window onto a world previously inaccessible.
The book is of its time, both in the way it is crumbling to dust and in its portrayal of the people we now term Native Americans - Indian as nomenclature being totally unacceptable. Despite, or perhaps because of movie portrayals of this people in the 50s, there is a sympathy in this book for them and to some extent a call to see them for what they are - a people of various cultures and of a long, dynamic history.
The author in his introduction About Ben Hunt says:
"There were three things that inspired Ben Hunt to become an expert on handicraft and an Indian lore authority. First was his grandmother, who told him tales of the Indians of the Wisconsin woodlands. She also inspired and encouraged him to draw, to learn whittling, to do leather work, and to make the things he wanted or needed instead of buying them.
"The second was Uncle Dan Beard, who founded the Boy Scouts of America, and who for years wrote articles on wood lore and handicrafts for Boys' Life magazine. From these articles Ben got many of the ideas for his boyhood projects.
"The third was a band of Sioux Indians which appeared in Milwaukee with the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show. In those days circuses pitched their tents in the old National Park grounds, not far from Ben's home on the south side of Milwaukee. The Indians who set up their tepees behind the circus tents were the first real Indians with whom Ben ever came in contact. They wore buckskin leggings and war bonnets of eagle feathers, and they painted their faces. Many of them were famous warriors who had helped defeat Custer at the Little Big Horn. "
This book when published in 1954 by W. Ben Hunt was indeed a window from a world whose attitudes are somewhat different today. Without getting too serious, and that "many of them were famous warriors who had helped defeat Custer at Little Big Horn" is certainly a hint to explore history but, this being Friday whose child is loving and giving, I shall leave that to those authors who have already explored these opportunities. What I will say, however, is that just taking this book off the shelves has opened a window for me; one previously I had never thought of opening.
This, as I said on Tuesday, is book week - books from my library that I think you might find interesting and which, it occurred to me when I began the Tuesday post, fit with the nursery song, Friday's Child.
Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace,
Wednesday's child is full of woe.
Thursday's child has far to go,
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.