Sunday, September 28, 2008

A story about knitting needles and warnings

I enjoy all sewing and needlework projects, including knitting and crocheting. I learned how to knit by reading a book my sister in law had, while I was staying at my brother's house on "vacation," but I was really taking care of my baby niece while my brother worked on his PhD and my sister in law taught in elementary school. This was during the summer that the United States landed the first man on the moon, and I watched that event from there on their black and white TV. (I was alone in watching it because they were out for the evening and just not into it anyway). So I was just a young girl.

Anyway, I was already an avid fan of sewing and arts and crafts, so I picked up that book and learned from the instructions and pictures how to knit. Years later I taught myself crochet. I knit and crocheted many of the clothes I wore in high school.

Years later when I was reading about Native American culture I was interested to read a historic event involving knitting needles. (I did a lot of reading of Native American culture, not for the goofy reasons that many did about "mysticism" and "vision quest" by stoned New Agers, but because I spent many years sponsoring Native American children who needed financial help to stay in school. I later considered many of them dear friends and family). So I enjoyed reading about their history, culture and art and traditional beliefs, and even collected some rare books on these subjects.

Many people have heard about the great defeat of General Armstrong Custer by the Lakota and Northern Cheyenne alliance at the Battle of Little Big Horn. I read some contemporary accounts of what happened, in my rare book collection. Here is a little gem that I often think about when I buy knitting needles (as I did yesterday). The Lakota had warned Custer not to persecute and attack them, and they warned him most seriously about the dire consequences if he did. But Custer pursued the Indians anyway, and history knows the result, that he and his men were slaughtered in battle.

Some bodies were found with knitting needles stuck in their ears. The explanation was that Indian women stuck them in there after they were dead, to symbolize "the hearing problem" that the soldiers had for not heeding the warning. Hmm.

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