Author: James L. Long
Land of Nakoda
by James L. Long
“Land of Nakoda” is a vivid account of the history, legends, customs, crafts, and ceremonies of the Assiniboine Indians of the northern plains. First published in 1942, it was written and illustrated by tribal members who interviewed the Old Ones, the tribal elders, in their native language. Many of the stories predate Lewis and Clark and were passed down through a dynamic oral tradition. Using clear and precise writing, “Land of Nakoda” accurately describes tribal legends, daily life, lodging, food, courtship and marriage, children’s games, buffalo hunting, tools and weapons, religious ceremonies and secret societies, medicine men and spirits, and the coming of the white men. It features 84 original illustrations, and a list of Assiniboine bands, and biographies of the author, the illustrator, and the Old Ones who told the stories.
The “Land of Nakoda” is an important book—a book that presents memories of a way of life that will not be experienced again in the foreseeable future. The reprinting of this book is particularly important to the living Nakoda people, whose relatives survived generation after generation, with harmony and respect in a wonderful, but often harsh environment. The book has special meaning because it was written and illustrated by Nakoda men whose own lives extended into the nineteenth century and who had considerable knowledge of the land, language and culture of the people from whom the information was obtained.
The style of the book is simple and straightforward. It is a reflection of James L. Long and his empathy with those people who had lived the hard life on the plains. The descriptions of everyday life and the social structure that arises from that life are detailed and focused but at the same time hint at the subtlety of the spiritual essence and humbleness of man living in harmony with nature. The book reflects the respect shown by the interviewer for the truth and accuracy of the oral tradition, which provided these crucial details and stories for the book. It is the essence of Assiniboine culture that has been transmitted to modern times from the sons and daughters of the “Land of Nakoda”.
It is obvious that respect for oral tradition dominates the content of this book. Despite musing by anthropologists and historians about the origins, kinship and alliances of the Nakoda, that oral tradition has considered the Nakoda as a singular, unique people from long before contact with Europeans.
Fort Peck Community College is delighted and thankful that this essential book is being reprinted. It will enable students of the future to understand the lives and ways of their ancestors.
Jamet Shanley, Stands in the Eagle Lodge President, Fort Peck Community College, Poplar, Montana