From the desk of Barbara Loeb

HoganBarbara Loeb is the co-editor of The Woman Who Loved Mankind by Lilian Bullshows Hogan, the fascinating life story of a 20th-century Crow woman elder. Loeb and Mardell Plainfeather set out to tell Hogan’s story in traditional Crow storytelling forms. 

When Mardell Plainfeather and I
recorded the life story of Mardell’s elderly Crow Indian mother, Lillian
Bullshows Hogan, I wanted to write Lillian’s stories the way she talked. No easy task, but my quest led me to the idea
that oral storytelling is performance, so it was important to follow the
rhythms of Lillian’s voice, changing to a new line each time she paused. That meant years of intense and detailed work—twenty years worth, to be exact—yet,
despite of countless hours with these stories, I still find the stories fresh
and relevant.

Lately I have been pondering a small
cluster of three particularly timely stories that address trans-gender
issues. Crow people solved some of these
dilemmas long ago. Women might follow a
more masculine lifestyle if they choose, and men might become berdaches (men
who dressed and lived as women).  Early
church ministers, Indian agents, and other white authorities were uncomfortable
with the idea of berdaches, and they harassed and humiliated them out of
existence. The tradition disappeared,
but Lillian’s family knew the last of the old-time Crow berdaches quite
well. He lived until 1929. In the
Apsáalooke language his name was Ohchikapdaapesh, or Ochiich, for short. In English his name meant Finds Them and
Kills Them. Ochiich was a respected
warrior who wore men’s clothing in battle but lived much of his life as a
woman. He was a good cook and a skilled
beader, and he almost always wore a dress and other women’s garments.

Lillian described this traditional
berdache, as well as her memories of his visits to her family. She recalled his
fun-filled teasing and the oranges and other goodies he brought to her and her
brother whenever he came for a visit. She also recounted one of his military accomplishments, and she told a
moving story of a confrontation between Agent Estep, the white man who enforced
harsh federal polices on the reservation, and Chief Plenty Coups, the last of
the tribe’s great old-time chiefs. Estep called Ochiich into his office and attempted to force him into
more masculine ways, but Chief Plenty Coups made it clear, in no uncertain
terms, that Ochiich had a place in Crow society just the way he was. If you would like to read the story of
Ochiich, Agent Estep, and Chief Plenty Coups click here.

-Barbara Loeb

One thought on “From the desk of Barbara Loeb

  1. Barbara: I am writing a review of the book of Lillian for submission to the Billings Gazette. I interviewed Mardell and Nellie Bad Bear awhile back for another book I am researching. Mardell commented how the book was not selling well, so…I am trying to help. I would like to send you my review for you see–and give me feedback that may help. I sent it to Mardell but I’m not sure when she might get back to me.

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