Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions
“Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions” written by John Lame Deer and Richard Erdoes is the life story of a Lakota ‘medicine man’, Lame Deer, and the visions of life and spirituality he imparts to the white man. Beginning with his journey on the hilltop to become a ‘medicine man’, Lame Deer shares his insights into the greater meaning of life which can only be found by accessing one’s personal connection with nature.
Lame Deer spent his youth on the Rosebud Reservation and from there made an attempt to fit into the white man’s world. Although he was granted the vision of ‘medicine man’ he experienced many trials and tribulations in his endeavor to assume the Euro-American ways. Lame Deer recounts many insights derived from his boyhood encounters that possess profound statements for the Native American people. His propensity for drinking is explained as such, “Why do Indians drink? They drink to forget, I think, to forget the great days when this land was ours and when it was beautiful, without highways, billboards, fences and factories."
Lame Deer found his share of trouble as a young man and spent nine months in a reformatory. Lame Deer’s illustrative account of his drunken spree in 1930 is almost as humorous as it is sad. He cites his reasons behind such actions as a misunderstanding between the white man and the Indian’s customs such as having no respect for a ‘medicine man’. In the Indian tradition, a medicine man had great respect. The white man treated it as a “savage superstition” that was shameful in its pagan customs. All the elements of Indian culture that won respect for a man had been taken away. Things such as hunting, wisdom, and being a warrior all signified respect from the fellow Indians of a tribe. As Lame Deer writes, there was nothing left to hunt. There were no more wars to fight and the white man made sure the Indians knew they were an uneducated worthless class of people. The emotion expressed by Lame Deer for his people is extremely heartfelt especially when he explains, “We didn’t want to be nothing. We wanted to be somebody. I felt that I was only half a man, that all the old, honored, accepted ways for a young man to do something worthy were barred to me.” This explains the heart of a young man wanting to follow in the footsteps of his great grandfather, General Miles. His joyride was an expression of a young Indian warrior whose rite of passage was stolen out from beneath him and as Lame Deer would explain, “I was young and maybe this was a childish way of saying, ‘Look, I’m a man. I exist. Take notice of my existence!"