Book Reviews of Greengrass Pipe Dancers.

1."It is difficult for anyone to expose their innermost feelings, let alone in a heart warming book! You have the chance to travel along with Lionel Little Eagle Pinn, a Micmac Indian, on his life journeys. Lionel, retired from the Coast Guard, lives with his present wife, Hilda, and youngest son, Travis, in Battleground, Washington. He thoughtfully dedicates each chapter of this saga to the people who came, influenced and guided him through his wanderings.

"For Native Americans, particularly the Lakota Sioux, Lionel's dream concerned his father-in-law, a truly wonderful person and owner of Naturegraph Press, the late Vinson Brown, who as a child inherited a pipe bag that belonged to Crazy Horse when his father died in 1948. Vinson's father, Dr. Henry Alexander Brown, received this pipe bag from a Lakota Chief in 1896 when he cured his son from pneumonia. The chief believed that good fortune would come to his tribe if he would present the pipe bag to the first White man who did something kind. But ownership of the bag also carried a great deal of responsibility. Vinson, in turn, would entrust this pipe bag to Lionel, his son-in-law and author of this wonderful book, in October of 1987, three years before Vinson would cross to the other side.

"The remainder of this thoughtful book concerns itself with Lionel's travels after he was entrusted with the pipe bag, Lionel attempting to do his best to live up to the honor bestowed upon him. But he would have to endure the long bout with his first wife, Tammy, who would die on June 7, 1990. Eventually he would learn that the Lakota Sioux finally decided that it was time when Lionel could return to them the pipe bag of Crazy Horse. When he placed the relic on a buffalo skull, he could sense a tremendous release of the hundred years of care and responsibility that his extended family had to bear. And he could visualize images of a young Doctor Brown and Tammy who were also happy to be released. And Lionel could continue, released, down the road of life." (Chuck Hamsa, Reviewers Consortium, September 2000)

2. "Like any good storyteller, Lionel Little Eagle recognizes that 'good stories are like good recipes'. Sometimes you add something extra to make them better, just as you add something extra to a recipe. A pipe bag of the fabled Sioux warrior chieftain, Crazy Horse, had been handed down through the generations of the family of Little Eagle's wife. Little Eagle comes into possession of it upon the death of his father-in-law. He is moved to want to return it to the Lakota people, and in so doing bring a spiritual completion to his own life. His path to returning the pipe bag is like a journey across the face and into the heart of Native American life. Reaching his destination of Greengrass, a small Indian community in South Dakota, he is befriended by many of its inhabitants and gets a rare glimpse of Native American society in peace and harmony with its surroundings and respectful of its ancient traditions. Little Eagle is a Micmac Indian who is deeply versed in the traditional way of life of Native Americans and also attuned to the spiritual interests and yearnings of contemporary American society. Readers will become involved in his story because of its openness and generosity." (Henry Berry, The Small Press Book Review, November 2000)

3."Greengrass Pipe Dancers, gives readers a rare glimpse into one man's unlikely journey into the most sacred circles of the Lakota and his soul.

"It tells the story of how he and his wife, Tammy, set out for Greengrass, South Dakota, in hopes of returning a Lakota pipe bag--thought to have belonged to the spiritual leader Crazy Horse.

"...is an easily read book and an engaging story line with vividly drawn characters. The most revealed of the characters in the book is Little Eagle himself, who unashamedly lets the reader in on his own blunders and life lessons. It is an impressive book..." (Kara Briggs,The Oregonian, April 2001)

4."Greengrass Pipe Dancers is both a story of pain and death and a search for healing and transformation. The underlying text is the author's experience of healing and acceptance in mourning the passing of his beloved young wife Tammy through witnessing the rite of the Sun Dance and pipe dancers with the Lakota of Greengrass, South Dakota. Straight from the heart, Greengrass Pipe Dancers is the author's testament to the power and beauty of Lakota spirituality, and the miraculous healing essence of the beautiful pipe bag he is given to carry and protect until a sacred resting place is found.

"Partly because of its simple, unassuming style, Greengrass Pipe Dancers may be read as a sort of personal journal of seeking spiritual enlightenment. The subtext is clear and undeniable, a brilliant witnessing of light and healing." (Nancy Lorraine, The Midwest Book Review)

5."...Lionel Little Eagle relates the touching and often humorous story of his first journey to South Dakota to participate in the honoring of the White Buffalo Calf Maiden pipe, and his initial encounters with several Native medicine people and friends....His book--written as if he were talking--relates the life-changing story of his subsequent journeys to participate in several Sun Dances at Greengrass. Interspersed with accounts of startling events and uncanny experiences with various medicine men, the book tells of Little Eagle's heartfelt efforts in search of healing for his first wife, Tamara Brown Pinn, who was dying of cancer." (Shaman's Drum, Number 57,2000)

6."The book is simply written and will bring a tear to every reader's eye. In addition to getting to know Lionel on a more intimate level, readers will walk away with enough taste of Native American history to want more--much more." (OSEA Journal, December 2000)

7. A refreshingly authentic portrayal of Native life experience. In a sea of for-profit new age mischaracterizations of Native American life and spirituality Greengrass Pipe Dancers is delightfully honest, humorous, brutal, painful, uplifting, and gentle. Little Eagle writes a true story of how his family came to possess the authentic handmade ceremonial pipe bag which once belonged to Sioux leader, Crazy Horse. Little Eagle struggles with his responsibility as caretaker of this powerful emblem...By consulting tribal elders...he faces the realization that such a beloved treasure must rightfully be returned to its makers--the Sioux tribe. (Matt Atkinson, author, Mending the Sacred Hoop.)

8. Greengrass Pipe Dancers tells many stories of healings of Spirit, Body and Mind. Call shot gun and jump in the car with Lionel and family and enjoy a trip into adventure. For those who have traveled those dusty gravel roads, memories may be rekindled. For those who haven't, Greengrass Pipe Dancers will take you there. (Chief White Bear, The PAIA News, Vol. 17, No. 4.)

9. It is not often words are powerful enough to sweep your mind from the chaotic dot.com craziness of a new century. It is even more uncommon for those words to create a deep yearning for a place you will never see. But these are the words of Lionel Little Eagle who has beckoned me to the mystery and wonder of an America I have not nor ever will know. (Cal LeMon, President, Executive Enrichment, Inc.)

10. In 1895, a physician who had successfully treated the ill son of a Lakota chief was given a pipe bag, said to have once belonged to Crazy Horse. Over a 93-year period, responsibility for the bag passed first to the physician's son and then to the son's son-in-law, Lionel Little Eagle. By far the largest part of this book is the very well-written, first person account of Little Eagle's search for guidance regarding what he should do with the pipe bag (and incidentally to determine if it really had belonged to Crazy Horse) and for help for his cancer-stricken wife. The narrative is centered around several trips to Greengrass, South Dakota, and to the Pine Ridge Reservation. In both places, he sought advice of prominent Lakota elders and pipe carriers. The climax is the revelation of the bag's ultimate fate and Little Eagle's discharge of his final responsibilities to it. (Donna Roper, Department of Sociology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS Journal of the West, Summer 2001).

11. Greengrass Pipe Dancers by Lionel Little Eagle is the story of the keeping of the pipe bag of Crazy Horse for over a hundred years. In 1895 it was given to Dr. H. A. Brown, who saved the life of a young Lakota boy. He kept it for 53 years. In 1948 he passed it on to his son, Vinson Brown, the founder of Naturegraph Publishers. Vinson kept it for 40 years and passed it on to the author in 1988. He passed it on at The Greengrass Pipe Dancers in a ceremony at Greengrass, and the sacred pipe bag is finally home. This book is a natural for Native literature and Native history classes. Naturegraph Publishers, PO Box 1047, Happy Camp, CA 96039 --Dean Chavers, The Native Scholar, 2003.


12. Powerful Medicine
As one flees the indoors for natural settings this weekend, it is the perfect moment to imagine life without cell phones, Blackberries, or Botox. The rest of us hardly ever do, but Native Americans still gather to celebrate the beauty and power of the elements, aging, and visions.

Next time you're looking for real inspiration--and a good book--pick up Greengrass Pipe Dancers. I first approached it with a "Yeah, yeah, Native American culture is cool" attitude--but I was skeptical it would be a good read. Authors of non-fiction yield mixed results trying to draw readers into stories of their culture.

I warmed to Greengrass Pipe Dancers, like stones in a sweat lodge. It's the story of a man's journey--both spiritual and physical--to do the right thing with a pipebag, a relic of Sioux Indians, rumored to belong to Crazy Horse. His simultaneous quest to seek healing for his cancer-stricken wife makes the tale more compelling. And, the author is our neighbor, Lionel Little Eagle, a Coast Guard retiree and Micmac Indian, who lives in Battleground, Washington. We accompany Little Eagle as he searches for miraculous medicine, the meaning of cloud formations, keys to why he has been entrusted with the pipebag artifact, and answers to how he will care for his child, should he be left to manage alone. We visit the Black Hills of South Dakota, where descendants of many tribes still gather for cleansing rituals in their practice of traditions that keep their families and culture strong.

It is a story that makes a middle-class White girl from the city wistful for a simpler time, and a road map for what is important in life. Lionel Little Eagle leads us through a trial in which we willingly take part--one that is profound in its simplicity.

KINK welcomes your feedback. Posted by Rebecca Webb, June 22, 2006