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Home > Teen Authors > Thomas Yellowtail

Thomas Yellowtail

Photo of Thomas YellowtailBorn in 1903, medicine man and Sun Dance chief Thomas Yellowtail was a pivotal figure in Crow tribal life in the 20th century. As a youth he lived in the presence of old warriors, hunters, and medicine men who knew the freedom and sacred ways of pre-reservation life. As the principal figure in the Crow-Shoshone Sun Dance religion during the second half of the 20th century, Yellowtail perpetuated the spiritual traditions of his Crow tribe until his death at age 90 in 1993.He was one of the most admired American Indian spiritual leaders of the last century.

Susie Yellowtail, Thomas Yellowtail's wife, was the first Native American registered nurse, a tireless advocate of Native American issues, and is already enshrined in the Montana Hall of Fame in Helena, Montana. Among many other awards, in 1969 Thomas and Susie Yellowtail were jointly awarded the honor of "Indian of the Year" by the All-American Indian Day Committee.

The story of his life and his descriptions of the Sun Dance religion are revealed in the book Yellowtail: Crow Medicine Man and Sun Dance Chief, edited by Michael Fitzgerald. It was published by the University of Oklahoma Press (1991) and is now in its 5th printing. Extracts from this book appear in World Wisdom's anthology Every Branch in Me . He also contributed a foreword to the bestseller, Indian Spirit: Revised and Enlarged.

The Sun Dance Way is a documentary produced by World Wisdom. Gordon Tootoosis (Legends of the Fall) brings to life the voice of Thomas Yellowtail as he describes the mysterious and ancient Sun Dance ceremony as part of this 2 DVD set. Native Spirit: The Sun Dance Way is the companion book to this documentary, featuring over 100 color and sepia photos and a biography of Yellowtail.

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