The Scout and The American Indian


Welcome to another Tuesday blog here at Petticoats and Pistols.  Sadly, one of my publishers, SAMHAIN PUBLISHING, is closing its doors, and although I’m not exactly certain what that mean in terms of e-books and such, I thought that I would like to give away a few e-books today…just in case those e-books are turned off when I post again (March).  So come on in and leave a message.  Over here to the right are the Giveaway Guidelines that rule our free give-aways.  So take a look, and then come on into the blog and let’s talk.

The Scout.  I’m fascinated by the philosophy and the skills of the old scout of the American Indian tribes.  Over to the left here is a picture of “Curly,” who was probably one of the most famous “scouts.”  He was a handsome man, and many of the pictures depicting scouts show the image of Curly.  But was he really a scout?

Well, he worked for the military.  He was Crow, a traditional enemy of the Sioux, and he used his skills to help Custer track down the Sioux and kill them.

Hmm…  Yes, he could track.  Yes, he knew many things about tracking and about the environment that the white man didn’t know.  But did he adhere to the philosophy of the true scout?

No, he did not.

The Picture to the right here says that this is a Sioux scout, another handsome man.  However, though I’m sure he did some scouting for the military, the fact that he hired himself out to scout and had his picture taken as a scout, would pretty much show that he was not a true scout.  Why?

Reason number one:  Okay — this I find so very, very interesting.  The society of the scout — the true scout — was extremely secretive.  In fact, no one in the tribe, outside of the actual society, knew who were their scouts.  These men led dual lives, because to announce themselves as a “scout” would be as to deliver themselves up to a possible enemy.  It would defeat the very philosophy of the scout.

Reason number two:  A scout was a peacemaker.  Although the scout trained physically every day of his life, learning to endure and flourish in all kinds of weather and all kinds of conditions, he used those skills to improve body control, not to hurt others.  Rather he used these skills to control his body so well, that he could translate that control over into his thoughts.  This, then could open up the world of the spiritual nature of life to him.  A scout learned to fight and he could win most every battle — utilizing the wolverine style of fighting.  But he was taught never to start a fight and to also walk away from a fight, even if it meant his own humiliation.  Only if pressed, only if it were a matter of life or death for himself, a loved one or a member of a tribe, would a scout fight to kill.  Indeed, a true scout would be shamed to carry a grudge against a whole people, and he would never submit himself to aid any cause that would murder an entire tribe.

Reason number three:  In the book, THE WAY OF THE SCOUT, by Tom Brown, Jr., he points out that “Grandfather,” the man who taught Tom and his friend the scouting techniques of the Apache, was very adamant about the fact that these “scouts” who the US Army hired to track down other tribes were not the true scout.  The duties of the scout were to be “the eyes and ears of the clan.” Quote from Tom Brown, Jr., THE WAY OF THE SCOUT.  Their duty was to guide and protect the tribe from all enemies;  to find game and to lead the way to the game.  Always uppermost in their mind was to keep the tribe safe.  Upon their trusted word, depended the lives of every member in that tribe.

Boys were trained for as long as ten years to become a scout.  During that time, they learned the classical methods of tracking, of erecting shelters, of water safety.  But once learned, they were then taught the same skills again, this time with the aspect of secrecy that was the very life breath of the scout.  They learned how to erect shelters that would fade into the environment; they were taught how to read the emotions, mind set and even to tell different injuries to the body of the man or animal they were tracking.  They learned how to endure pain, hunger, cold, heat and yet flourish, but most of all, they learned to respect the right of all life to live, to enjoy life and most of all, how to love all life.

At present I’m engaged in writing my next book, whose working title is BRAVE WOLF’S LADY.  The hero is a scout, a true hero.

Because other men hired themselves out to the army to hunt down other tribes, I think that a great wrong has occurred.  Perhaps it was simply a mistake.  But those men who aided the army were incorrectly called, “scouts.”  They weren’t.  Perhaps many of those men didn’t speak English and so they didn’t set the record straight.  But for whatever reason, I believe that a stigma of viciousness has attached itself in a greater or lesser degree to the name of the scout.  And it is undeserved.  By the way, the picture to the left is Quanah Parker, Commache.

It is one of the privileges of writing, I think, that one is able to put some of these false impressions to rest by telling the real story.  And i also believe that this might well be one of the reasons why I write.

What do you think?  Do you believe that there are some historical lies that perhaps need to be set straight?

Come on in, leave a comment, and by doing so, you will automatically be entered into the drawing.

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KAREN KAY aka GEN BAILEY is the multi-published author of American Indian Historical Romances. She has written for such prestigious publishers as AVON/HarperCollins, Berkley/Penguin/Putnam and Samhain Publishing. KAREN KAY’S great grandmother was Choctaw Indian and Kay is honored to be able to write about the American Indian Culture.
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28 thoughts on “The Scout and The American Indian”

  1. It is sad to see Samhain close as many have recently. Another wonderful post. I learn so much from them. Thanks so much

    • Yes, DebraG!

      I have truly loved writing for Samhain and I am a bit shocked at their closing. But this market seems to go through these things now and again. I guess the test is whether one can continue on in a down turned market. But again, I absolutely loved writing for Samhain. My publisher at present is Prairie Rose — an amazing publisher, also. : )

  2. I agree with Minna – I’m convinced there are lies throughout all of history. I am glad to know what real scouts were – not what we are told in pictures! Thanks for sharing that with us. 🙂

  3. So much fascinating information, Karen! I look forward to reading your new book when it is ready. Thank you for setting the record straight about these scouts. I find their true history so much better than what I’ve heard in the past. You have done so much research. Have you ever thought of writing a straight historical novel on one of these men?

    • Hi Kathryn!

      You know, I have considered it because I do so much research. But I’m afraid I’m such a romantic, that even if I tried, there’d be more romance than anything else in the book. LOL Don’t get me wrong. I love history and consider learning real history the icing on the cake — but the dynamics between two people in love — against all odds — is something that I can’t quite shake — perhaps it’s the beauty of it. Not sure — but I sure do love romance. 🙂

  4. I think that maybe the US Army had no idea what a native scout truly was, and used that term in their own frame of reference for someone who tracks and finds an enemy’s location. That being said, much of history has been written from the prevailing point of view at the time of writing. It is very difficult for humans to approach all that they do with out any trace of bias.

    • Hi Karen!

      That’s an interesting observation, and I think you’re right — and yes, I believe that the misnomer occurred because the US Army didn’t really understand just what a scout was. So I thought I’d do my part to set the record straight, at least to those of you who come here and for myself.

  5. By the way, there is this documentary series, British History’s Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley. It is at the moment on Youtube.

  6. Hi Kay, i always learn so much through your posts. Today I learned that scouts were mainly secretive! What a great fact. I enjoyed the pictures as well. Keep up the good work. xo

  7. I totally agree with what Karen Krack said on all points.

    Remember, the actual word “scout” is an English word, and not an Indian word. The word “scout” had long been used in English before contact with Indians:

    scout (verb): “late 14c., “observe or explore as a scout, travel in search of information,” from Old French escouter “to listen, heed” (Modern French écouter), from Latin auscultare “to listen to, give heed to” (see auscultate).”

    scout (noun): “person who scouts, one sent out to gain information,” 1550s.”

    Although Indians in the American jobs they took on were called “scouts,” each Indian tribe had its own words or phrases in its own languages for possibly similar work or what it meant to their own culture. There may not even be a direct, exact Indian word or phrase for what we called the scout; the closest I could find for the Lakota is “tu?wéya”, “gahbmahchige” for the Ojibway, “tsiysae” for the Crow, and “Nabaahi” for the Apache, for instance. Another example, we call one well-known tribe the “Sioux,” which originally came from a French word meaning “enemy,” but those people call themselves “Lakota” which means “friends.” Most tribes of all kinds have their own name in their own language often meaning “the people.”

    As another example, when the Lakota tribe I worked with were performing for non_Indian audiences, they accepted the word “Sioux” with quiet good grace, but while amongst themselves and with non-Indian friends they never ever used that word and always were “Lakota.”

  8. Hi Eliza,

    Great information. I love the definitions. Well, in truth, the tribes generally called their scouts “wolves.” Many scouts even dressed as a wolf (wolf skin, etc.) when out scouting, since wolves were the most common animal at that time upon the plains — and there is record that even when in camp, the scouts would disguise themselves with such things as mud — sometimes even giving themselves mud wolf-like ears. Indeed, they were secretive.

  9. Hi Karen!! Another very interesting read. I always enjoy learning new things. These are some excellent pictures too!! Can’t wait to read your new book when it comes out!! Keep up the awesome work and I love reading books that have romance in them too!!!

  10. I’m sorry to hear that one of your publishers is closing its doors and appreciate you sharing another fascinating post!

    • Hi Britney!

      Me, too. Samhain was a good publisher. But truth to tell, I have loved all my Publishers — AVON/HarperCollins; Berkley/Penguin/Putnam and my current Publisher Prairie Rose. Thanks for the post.

  11. I think in some cases, things known aren’t necessarily lies, but misinterpretations. The definition of Scout being one of them. To the Army, these men were scouts and fulfilled the job definition the army had. I am sure few if any of the white men of the time knew anything about the role of a scout in the native tribes. Much of the shameful treatment of the native americans was no secret. It was even bragged about and legalized. If you look, the accounts are there, but they have been forgotten over time. History was “cleaned up” so it didn’t look so bad. It is not so much that lies are being told, but that the facts have been forgotten or are unknown to the past several generations.
    The more information that can be brought out and made known, the better.

    • Hi Patricia!

      I so agree with your views here. This is probably what happened, and unfortunately, it gave a bad reputation to the true scouts — who, by the way, were called wolves by their tribes. I love bringing these little things to the fore.

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