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“They Called It Counting Coup”

April 1, 2008

Noted without comment for the moment, a profile of Jacoby Ellsbury in this Sunday’s Boston Globe Magazine that begins with a curious (or is it all too familiar?) take on The Warrior Tradition:

As a Native American warrior, your ultimate triumph in battle was not to kill your enemy. It was to use your speed and your smarts and your wiles to get close enough to touch him, and then to slip away. The message was irrefutable: There was still breath in his chest only because you allowed it. Talk about power. Talk about speed. Talk about pride. Native Americans had a term for their definition of victory. They called it counting coup. When Billy Mills was 8, his mother died. His father, a member of the Lakota nation in South Dakota, stroked the boy’s arms and told him, “You have broken wings.” He used a stick to draw a circle in the dirt. “Step inside your soul,” he said. “It is the pursuit of the dream that will heal you.”

He encouraged his son to find his dream in sports, which were providing the Indian with a new way to compete against the white man after centuries of slaughter and treacherous treaties. Native Americans could play by the white man’s rules, but leverage the quickness, endurance, and cunning that had always been central to their ancestors’ hunter-gatherer ways.

Read the rest of it here.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 18, 2010 8:42 pm

    I am a teacher at an alternative school in St. Paul, MN. I have several Native students who are interested in warrior culture and especially the concept of counting coup. Can you recommend any resources (web, print, documentary) that would be helpful? I’d like to get them past Wikipedia.

  2. LeAnne Howe permalink
    January 20, 2010 11:41 pm

    Hi Mike;
    A few years back, Craig Howe, Harvey Markowitz, Dean Rader and I published an article in SAIL [Studies in American Indian Literature] which had a long section on Counting Coup written by Lakota scholar, Craig Howe. The article has four sections that each of his wrote, but Craig’s definitely covers counting coup and all its various meanings. Take a look at it.

    Here is the citation for the article. I hope this helps. Also, Craig cites other scholars so this might be helpful to your students. best, LH

    2004: Essay:
    “Indians in the Act: Native Theater Past and Present.” Craig Howe, Harvey Markowitz, Dean Rader and LeAnne Howe. SAIL: Studies in American Indian Literatures 16.1

  3. January 21, 2010 8:36 pm

    Hi LeAnne,
    Thank you for the prompt and pertinent response. It will be very helpful in my efforts to engage these students. Two of them just got suspended for 3 days for disrespecting staff, which is just an example of how “at-risk” they are. I have formed a good relationship with them and am sure that I can bring them back in to get back to something positive. Your article will be a great help.
    Here is something for you from my students. A group of them have been following the tragic events in Haiti and decided to produce a song and video to encourage donations. Enjoy!

  4. January 25, 2010 3:37 pm

    Hello Mike,,thanks to you and your students for sharing their talents in this video and message,,I really enjoyed it. It was very uplifting to see them in their efforts to spread the message for the world to help the people of Haiti,,

    Power to you,,

    Jay Watson
    Chahtas Fastpitch

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