Pretty Shield

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Pretty-Shield)
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Pretty Shield
Pretty Shield.jpg
The cover of Frank Linderman's Pretty Shield biography
Spouse(s)Goes Ahead
ChildrenFour girls and three boys
Parent(s)Kills-in-the-Night, Crazy Sister-in-Law
RelativesTen brothers and sisters; granddaughter, Alma Hogan Snell

Pretty Shield (1856–1944) was a medicine woman of the Crow Nation. Her biography, perhaps the first record of female Native American life, was written by Frank B. Linderman, who interviewed her using an interpreter and sign language.[1]


Born in 1856 to Kills-in-the-Night and Crazy Sister-in-Law, Pretty Shield was the fourth of eleven children. Her name was given to her by her grandfather when she was four days old and it was considered a name of honor, commemorating her grandfather's handsome war shield.[2]

Pretty Shield had a happy childhood, and later described games played by Crow children. They kicked balls stuffed with antelope hair and slid down snowy hillsides on sleds made of buffalo ribs. When she was seven, she was attacked by a mad buffalo bull. In trying to escape she fell and drove a stick into her forehead and against one eye, leaving a permanent scar. When she was fourteen, Pretty Shield and a group of her friends were treed by a grizzly bear and her cubs. She remembered looking down into the eyes of the grizzly for the rest of her life.[3]

At sixteen Pretty Shield became the second wife of Goes Ahead, whose first wife was Pretty Shield's older sister. She gave birth to four girls and three boys, but one girl and one boy died as infants. While grieving over their deaths, she had the vision that led her to become a healer. Like other Crow women, Pretty Shield cut her hair short and slashed her arms, legs, and face to show her suffering, then wandered without food or water until her grief became less intense. She wandered upon a woman who led her to an anthill. She told her to rake its edges and then ask for anything she wanted. Pretty Shield asked for "good luck and a good life." After that the ants, "busy, powerful little people," were her medicine.[3]

As a medicine woman, Pretty Shield treated tribal illnesses with medicinal plants and often acted as a counselor. As was customary, she did not charge a fee but was paid in gifts, including tobacco, elks' teeth, buffalo robes, and food.[3]

Pretty Shield's Crow clan, the Sore Lips, had inhabited southeastern Montana for generations. The Crow were regularly at war with the Sioux, Arapahoe, Cheyenne, and Blackfoot tribes. The Crows' bravery is evident in their survival despite being drastically outnumbered by the Native tribes they warred against.[1]

After the death of Goes Ahead, Pretty Shield raised her daughters and nine grandchildren on her own.[5] Talking to Linderman, Pretty Shield expressed a sadness over the disappearing Crow culture. She believed her people would follow the buffalo herds on the plains forever, as they had done for centuries.[3]



  1. ^ a b Linderman, Frank. Pretty-shield: Medicine Woman of the Crows. University of Nebraska Press, 2003
  2. ^ Wong, Hertha Dawn. Sending my Heart Back Across the Years. Oxford University Press, 1992 p. 100
  3. ^ a b c d Alter, Judy. Extraordinary Women of the American West. Children's Press, 1999, p. 85-87
  4. ^ a b Calloway, Colin. Our Hearts Fell to the Ground. Bedford/St. Martin's, 1996, p. 130-131
  5. ^ Wong, Hertha Dawn. Sending my Heart Back Across the Years. Oxford University Press, 1992

External links[edit]