"As an Ioway Indian, [Lance Foster] is interested in the landscape as it was when his ancestors left Iowa in the early nineteenth century, so he went to the Neal Smith refuge, hoping to see the msall herd of buffalo that had been introduced and the prairie "returning to life." In addition, however, he has been independently engaged in his own effort at landscape recovery. For several years, Foster has been imaginatively recovering the prairie by putting together the recorded history of the Ioway, the findings of modern archaeology, and the Ioway language, legends, and traditions. The process is complex, requiring many kinds of research and expertise, but it is also highly rewarding. It is significant that the Ioway and their neighbors lived mainly in river valleys, using the prairies for hunting and crossing them in their travels, but well aware of the difficulties and dangers they presented. The Iowa language had specific words for different kinds of walking in grass, brush, and on and off trails. Ioway tales recount many traditions about trees-- proof of the widespread presence of wooded valleys and savannas. Yet other stories and traditions, as well as the Ioway names for the months of the year, document the people's great dependence on buffalo and prairie animals. Foster has not only "recovered" the landscape of the Ioway, but has assembled information that is of great importance to a modern environmental historian" (Robert F. Sayre, Introduction, p. 10)
Lance gives an overview of the book:
"I was there to see the buffalo, though, which are kept in 800 enclosed acres, with a so-called buffalo-proof fence, so I took the road that warned of 'Buffalo on the Road." Well, the road went right through the enclosure, but I saw no buffalo. I looked and I looked. I wondered if somehow I was not worthy. While the terrain was rolling and broken, and some portions were wooded, it still amazed me that such large animals could remain so well-hidden. I drove through once, turned around, and drove through again. Still nothing.
I was disappointed, and I drove down by the bur oaks, down below the charcoal slopes. I sat there for a while, listening to the tree frogs peeping near Walnut Creek, and enjoying the smell of growing sweetgrass somewhere nearby.
Then I thought about how the Old Ones believed that the buffalo could come alive again, by clothing its desiccated bones with a mantle of living flesh. And the thought came to me that this prairie was coming alive in the same way. It had once been killed and the flesh torn away, the soil with its coneflowers and Indian grass, so that the prairie was invisible, nothing left but a sheath of hybrid corn and scattered patches of weeds and scrub. But now the skeleton was again becoming clothed in its old flesh of prairie life --plants, birds, and animals. Like the old stories of the buffalo returning to life, this prairie was returning to life. And somewhere, just over that ridge, unseen as in a great cavern beneath the earth, the buffalo were waiting." (p. 189)
I was raised in Helena, Montana and graduated school here. I am the first one in my family to attend and graduate from college. I went to art school in Santa Fe. I couldn't decide between being a writer and an artist; I love both words and images. I am mixed-blood, enrolled...