The Dreamer – A retelling

Discussion in 'H.I. Cantina' started by Howard Wallace, Mar 25, 2006.

  1. Howard Wallace

    Howard Wallace . Moderator

    Feb 23, 1999
    I mentioned in another thread a hard-to-find book of poetry by Bill Martino. That book, Songs of the Sand Country, was published in 1972.

    There are other rare books by Bill. In 1973 he published Fallen Feathers. 100 copies of this small 30 page book were printed by Nail Press. The book is illustrated by John Brandi, and the illustrations of each copy were hand colored. The book contains two short stories. They are titled, The Last Sun Dance, and The Pilgrim. The stories involve the ritualized death of an old Native American man, and a visit a Native American made to Wounded Knee. The short stories and illustrations are evocative, of something. However, they leave a reader trying to understand them with many questions.

    Here, in Bill’s words, is why he wrote the book.

    Another book by Bill, published in the next year, 1975, by Branden Press, is called “The Dreamer, A Tale of the Sioux.” This paperback book is a little longer, 76 pages. To give an idea of the value I place on these writings, I did not balk at paying the seller’s asking price of $130 for this little used paperback volume. I might have bought several good knives for that price. However, I have a good cutting tool and the book is a sort of knife that is useful for other purposes.

    This little blurb is from the back cover.

    I read through the little book in one night. It is a moving story. It does not contain the loose ends of the short stories in Fallen Feathers. As I read The Dreamer I was surprised to find the two short stories from Fallen Feathers were part of the story of The Dreamer, and now the hanging ends were tied into a larger, understandable, if disturbing, whole.

    I would like someday to make these volumes available to the forumites in electronic format, if I can do so legally. I’ve contacted Yangdu about this, and it’s something both she and I are looking into. It may be some time before we can get resolution on the questions of reproduction though. I may post small “fair use” selections verbatim from the works before then, as I have in this post.

    Until then, we have a passaround going for Bill’s Songs of the Sand Country, so forumites will have a chance to read and discuss among each other that work. Until then, around our virtual campfire, I will tell you the story of The Dreamer, as Bill told it to me. It may be that this was the way Bill’s story was meant to be transmitted, in some modern equivalent of the oral tradition.

    The Dreamer has 19 chapters. I will use them as a guide, and post no more than a chapter’s worth of the story in any post. I’ll probably never make more than one post relating the story in a day, and it may be many days between posts. If interest flags I’ll just let it rest for a while, or forever.

    Since this is a tale told around the campfire, feel free to interject comments. Make yourself comfortable. Pull up a log. Some of you have heard this story before, so please share your perspectives. You can even help in the telling, but please don’t jump ahead too far as a “spoiler.” Since we’re here in an informal setting, you can burp or fart as needed. You can argue. Some of you may have ideas about the story’s truth or fictional nature. Bring it up. Some of you know a lot about Native American traditions. If its BS then call it. I’m just telling a story I heard.

    This tale has elements that are disturbing. Some of you may find parts disgusting or sickening. Some parts may not be “fit for family” hearing. I’ll trust to our good moderators to make any edits that are required, in their judgments. I’m not going to worry too much about that, as my roll in this thread is just the teller of the story.

    I have a number of chores to do today. The sky is clear and the sun is out so I’ll probably not be back to my computer before the evening. Perhaps, if there is interest and enthusiasm enough, I will post the first part of the story then.
  2. Nasty

    Nasty Chief Cook & Bottle Wash

    Nov 11, 2003
    I look forward to it if it is possible Howard...thank you.

    Yangdu...Thank *you* as well.
  3. raghorn


    Feb 23, 2002
    I second that.
  4. Yvsa


    May 18, 1999
    Never mind.
  5. gyr


    Apr 13, 2002

    I too look forward to as much of this tale as you care to share.
    Thanks for bringing yet another stellar contribution to this forum.
  6. Ad Astra

    Ad Astra

    Jul 30, 2004
    Yes, please, Howard.

    I can cut & paste the text into Quark®, a publishing program, for any future printing use or book redesign.

  7. Berkley


    May 5, 1999
    Thanks, Howard. I'm settled on my log, just whittling and waiting patiently. Whenever you're ready to start, I'll be listening.
  8. Howard Wallace

    Howard Wallace . Moderator

    Feb 23, 1999
    There are whispers of the dreams of Dreamers on the web.

    The words of Chief Smohalla of the Nex Perce.

    You can even find the words of Black Elk, if you search. And the search will be worthy of your time. Go there and find them.


    Wambli Sampa, Black Eagle, was very old. His face was deeply wrinkled. He was walking alone along a dirt road in South Dakota. The sun beat down upon his stooped frame as he trudged along, carrying the heavy buffalo leather sack on his back. His buckskin clothes were old and worn. The decorative fringes were long gone. The leather had been patched and repatched, and in places was stiff with years of grime. His moccasins were old and thin of sole. The sharp gravel of the road was uncomfortable through the thin soles.

    The old buffalo-leather sack had an odd variety of contents. The expected, perhaps… an old well-worn blanket, some dried venison, cornmeal, some bacon, a braided rawhide rope, a can of coffee, a skin of water, a hatchet, a hunting knife, sharp enough to shave the straggly whiskers he sometimes found on his face. But also the unusual. A dried squirrel head. A piece of flint. Various dried birds heads and claws.


    From the road behind the old man came the rumbling of a school bus full of children. It passed him on the old dirt road, stirring up great clouds of choking dust. The old man choked as he sat down, swearing “F---ing wasicus!” He could feel the bile rise in his throat as he thought of the children riding the bus to the white man’s school. The anger of many years welled up, and he exclaimed to the sky, “Wakan Tanka, how much longer must I wait?”

    After a few minutes the old man, the unusual one, the dreamer, stood up, shouldered his bag, and resumed walking. He had many miles yet to cover before he would reach the village of Wounded Knee.

  9. Big Bob

    Big Bob

    Oct 13, 1999
    I might have heard about this before but its still something that Bill wrote two books. Shame about the reactions his family and wife had to his change of lifestyle. :(

  10. Howard Wallace

    Howard Wallace . Moderator

    Feb 23, 1999
    Interesting you keyed in on the title of one of the short stories. The Sun Dance is a key element in the story. Some may not know what it is. Wikipedia has a little article. Anything you guys know and can share will be good background for us as the story unfolds.

    I wonder. Maybe the subsequent stuff in Bill's life could not have unfolded without those reactions. Who knows?
  11. Howard Wallace

    Howard Wallace . Moderator

    Feb 23, 1999
    As the old man continued his walk, his mind drifted back to the days of his youth. His hand went back to touch the single eagle feather tied into his hair. He was not always called Wambli Sampa.

    When he was 12 it was time for him to spend some solitary days alone on a hill, neither eating nor drinking. For days he suffered, and nothing happened. Then the black eagle, the Wakan eagle, came to speak with him. The eagle told him that Wakan Tanka had decreed that the boy and the eagle should be brothers. Because of this, the eagle would advise him in time of need. Three special times in the life the Wakan eagle would come to his brother, give advice that was needed.

    The boy was instructed by the eagle to go back to his village, get his pony, and ride out to a location in the hills. There he was to make a trap, and trap the great black eagle that would come to him. He was not to hurt the eagle, for the eagle was his friend. Then he was to take the eagle back to his village, where the Shamans and the Dreamers would understand its significance.

    The boy did as he was told, returning to his village, getting his pony, and riding forth. No one questioned him or stopped him, for they could see that he was on an important task. He rode to the location the Wakan eagle told him of. When he got there, he set some snares in the rabbit pathways nearby. Then he dug a shallow pit, and cut branches to cover it. When he was done he returned to his snares. One of them contained a rabbit. The boy removed one of the hindquarters of the rabbit and left it nearby as an offering. The he gathered up the snares.

    Returning to the pit, the boy lay down inside. He had tethered the pony a ways off. First he carefully arranged branches over the part of the pit containing his legs, concealing them from above. He pulled over more branches to cover the part of the pit containing his torso and arranged the carcass of the rabbit on top, in a manner he thought an eagle would find appealing. Then he arranged the branches over his head, leaving some gaps through which he could observe the sky.

    Then he waited. The boy was no stranger to waiting. He could smell the earth around him and the cut branches above him. After some time he saw a tiny black dot high up in the sky, and thought, “you have come.” The boy wondered if the eagle could see the rabbit from so high above, but the eagle apparently could, as it began circling and dropped lower and lower. The boy’s heart began to pound in his ears as the form of the great bird became evident, and it dropped closer and closer. The boy wondered if the thunderous pounding would scare the eagle away.

    But the eagle continued closer and closer, finally with a beating of wings settling its weight on one of the branches above the pit and beginning to tear at the carcass of the rabbit. The boy, very carefully, began to move his hands towards one of the great talons above him. When he grabbed the talon the bird gave a startled cry and commenced beating its wings. The boy managed to get the other talon with his other hand, and struggled to pull the bird into the pit. As the bird came into the pit the boy struggled to get a blanket over its head. When the blanket covered the bird it became calmer and ceased to struggle.

    The boy returned to the village on his pony. In front of him on the pony was the blanket-wrapped bundle. When he got to the village people soon crowded around him, for they knew he was returning from an important time. As the boy removed the blanket and the majestic form of the eagle was revealed, the people wondered. The elders, the shamans, and the dreamers spoke among themselves about the boy. The boy related to them his dream, and how he came to trap the eagle. Then the boy walked through the village, to the other side. People followed him to see what would happen. He released the eagle, and with a great beating of wings it began to climb into the sky. Eventually it found a thermal and began to circle within the column of rising air, climbing higher and higher into the sky on stationary wings. The people watched it go in silence.

    Later there was a celebration, and a fine puppy was roasted. The young man was given his choice of his favorite part.

    Thus the young man came to be called Wambli Sampa, Black Eagle. His people recognized him then, on that day, as one of the rare ones, a dreamer.
  12. Yvsa


    May 18, 1999
    Never mind.
  13. Howard Wallace

    Howard Wallace . Moderator

    Feb 23, 1999
    Thanks Yvsa.

    It is in the nature of a retelling that I leave some things out. Bill's story goes into more detail of the vision. Wambli Sampa did dream of a great storm when he was on the mountain prior to the coming of the Wakan eagle. Later, upon reflection, he was most grateful that he did not hear the thunder.

    According to Bill's telling, the Heyoka had special powers. Some could heal, some could make powerful weapons. All could grab meat from a pot of boiling water. The Heyoka lived on the outskirts of the camp, wearing rags and living in a tattered tipi. If one were to receive a fine gift in return for some great magic, he would immediately give it away, for he could not own such things.

    The Heyoka's power came at a great price, and Wambli Sampa was very glad he was not called to such a life.
  14. Howard Wallace

    Howard Wallace . Moderator

    Feb 23, 1999
    Since feelings were hurt in my other thread about Bill's writings, I've wrestled with how to continue this retelling. I've decided to drop it. Bill's tale of The Dreamer is not "G" rated. If I were back in freshman humanities I might say it dealt with man's inhumanity to man. Now I've lived enough years on the earth so I no longer think brutality and hatred are "inhumane." They are among the most human of characteristics, and ones by which our species can readily be identified. Rather, if I were now back in the freshman humanities class I might say that Bill undertook an exploration of the human qualities of brutality and hatred in his story, and tried to go deep enough into them that he could see what was on the other side.

    I don't want to leave my friends who started to listen to the story with me in the lurch though, so I'll start another pass-around with this book. Here it goes, the pass-around starts burried in this thread, so those still interested and reading will find it.

    Here are the ground rules.

    • If you want to participate, sign up on this thread. You’ll need to have an e-mail address available in your profile or in your post in order for others to contact you for mailing information. If you’re outside the US please wait for a week from the time of this post before posting to this thread. That will enable most of the interested US participants to sign up first, and keep to a minimum the number of people in line waiting for the book because of delays in international mail.
    • Keep the book no longer than 7 days after you receive it. When you are done, mail it off via priority mail to the next participant. You will have to contact the next person in the list to get the address.
    • The book will come to you with some protection to keep it from bending. Please send it off again in the same way.
    • If you found something of value in the book, please consider making a contribution to Ram’s tuition fund. Information on how to do that is available at .
    • If you’re the last person on the list and have no one to send the book to send it to Steve Ferguson. He will then be able to dispose of it as he wishes in his fund-raising activities for Ram.
    • I think Nasty's advice concerning signatures is good. Red Flower and I have written little notes and signed them. If you want to make a notation in the book after you've read it feel free to do so. It's kind of like a HI yearbook.
    I’m going to give Rice, Yvsa and Steve Ferguson the first shots at reading it, if they’re interested. After that we start working through the forumites signed up in this thread, in order.

  15. sogguy


    Nov 17, 2004
    Howard, thank you and please count me in.

  16. Yvsa


    May 18, 1999
    "The Dreamer" headed out to Steve this afternoon @ 4:30 p.m.

    "The Dreamer" is a little book but a very powerful one. Bill managed to capture the feelings of a lot of today's ndn people, let alone those that have gone on before us.
    I laughed as well as cried when I read some of the stories. Bill also portrayed ndn life on the Rez as it is and not as some Yonegi, or in the case of the Lakota, some Wasicu, wants it to be.
    There was also a lot left out of the book that was relayed to me by Bill after we were acquainted that I am not too pass on.
    I am really glad that Bill and I made peace and were once again communicating before he walked West.
    I think we were both pleased that indeed we were brothers and in every sense of the word.
    I think Rusty and maybe a few others were privileged to have the relationship with Bill, Uncle Bill, that I had.
    Bill gifted me with an artifact that a member of his family had taken off of an ndn that he killed in a skirmish long ago. It is kept in a safe an honorable place and the man's spirit has been released to travel the Star Road as it finally should have been. Bill knew that I would know what needed to be done with it and trusted me to do it. Bill, Uncle Bill, had an ndn heart in his last life.:thumbup: :D :cool:
    I imagine that he will in his next one as well although I'm not the one to say.
  17. Fiddleback

    Fiddleback Knifemaker Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    Oct 19, 2005
    How did I miss this thread. Excellent read. I am interested in being put on this list also. Thank You.
  18. AlexCA


    Sep 23, 2004
    i am interested too ... thank you for all of this,
  19. ferguson


    Feb 21, 2001
    Sent out to Raghorn on Monday morning. I really enjoyed this book. More later.
  20. raghorn


    Feb 23, 2002
    Packaged up and headed for SogGuy first thing in the morning.

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