William Wayne Red Hat, Jr.: Cheyenne Keeper of the Arrows

May 15th, 2010 | By | Category: 21-4: Native American Studies, Summer 2010, Media Reviews

Edited by Sibylle M. Schlesier
University of Oklahoma Press (2008)

Review by Eleanor Kuhl

This thoughtful, 156-page book features the personal testimony of a Cheyenne spiritual leader whose most urgent concern is the perpetuation of his tribe’s cultural identity. In his various narratives, Bill Red Hat, Jr., speaks about Cheyenne cultural survival, Cheyenne selfdetermination, and social justice.

He discusses family, Cheyenne community, and his role in that community. Finally, he addresses healing and his determination to help people. Readers gain a sense of how he walks the perilous and potholed path between traditionalism and modernity.

The editor is a white woman who says she feels inadequate and shallow compared to the Cheyenne Arrow Keeper. By recording his stories, “We articulate our place in the world,” she believes. “The story will not end here, because in remaining consistent with the oral tradition, it is now up to someone else to continue telling it,” she adds.

Bill Red Hat, Jr., served two tours in Vietnam as a Marine and earned a Purple Heart as well as numerous other awards. In 1993 he began to help his grandfather, Edward Red Hat, in his duties as a Cheyenne spiritual leader and continues in that essential role. Sibylle M. Schlesier has taught at Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute, and her family and the Red Hat family have worked together since 1972.

This book is recommended for tribal college libraries, especially for students who struggle to write their own stories.

Eleanor Kuhl was library director at the Shiprock Campus of Diné College and currently works as a proofreader and researcher for the Tribal College Journal.

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