The remarkable story of a young Cheyenne warrior woman in her early twenties, Buffalo Calf Road, spans a period of 3 years from 1876 until her death in 1879. During this time the Cheyenne were caught in the westward expansion of pioneers, miners and the army, all determined to colonize the land on the great plains occupied by native peoples.
The Cheyenne and other native tribes endured attacks, massacres and forced removals to reservations.
It is not known how she acquired her skill with a gun, but Buffalo Calf Road first rose to prominence among her people at the Battle of the Rosebud. Since General Crook and his men were seen advancing toward their village, warriors prepared to ride out to stop them.
Determined to help save her people, Buffalo Calf Road decided to ride with the warriors despite some opposition to a woman doing so. As the battle raged, she fought bravely.
At one point she spotted her brother, Comes In Sight, in a gully below, trapped by soldiers closing in. Immediately, Calf rode down into the gully amidst the flying bullets and, in an amazing rescue, pulled her brother onto her horse and out of the gully to safety.
Those warriors observing the scene were greatly impressed, since they themselves had hesitated, thinking the situation too impossible to save Comes In Sight. Victorious, her people named the battle for her, The Battle Where the Girl Saved Her Brother, and called her Brave Woman.
A week later, General George Armstrong Custer led his troops against an encampment of Cheyenne, Lakota and other tribes camped along the Little Bighorn River.
Buffalo Calf Road again joined the warriors and fought bravely for her people, the only woman to do so.
During the battle, she rescued a young warrior who lost his horse. Again victorious, the tribes regrouped, each going their own way.
Five months later, the Cheyenne village was viciously attacked again by soldiers in the early morning hours.
When it was over, more than 40 Cheyenne lay dead, many wounded, and the village burned to the ground. Forced to flee again, this time without blankets, adequate clothing or food, Buffalo Calf Road and her people made their way through a freezing, blinding snowstorm that descended on them.
That first night in the icy cold, eleven babies froze to death.
Photo: A shield collected at Botany Bay during Captain Cook’s visit in 1770. (Supplied: British Museum)
A shield collected after a skirmish at Botany Bay in 1770 is set to go on display at the British Museum as part of an “immensely important” exhibition devoted to the history of Indigenous Australia.
The exhibition will draw on objects from the British Museum’s collection and loans from Australian and British collections.
The bark shield is believed to have been collected by Captain James Cook or one of his men, and has a small hole believed to have been made by a spear.
Gaye Sculthorpe, the British Museum’s curator for Oceania and Australia, has previously described the shield as a “truly remarkable, significant, important object”.
“There was a skirmish on the beach and this shield was dropped and it was collected and brought back to England,” she said in 2013, when planning for the display was underway.
Objects from the early days in Sydney are particularly significant because very few are left after fire destroyed the Australian Museum’s collection in 1882.
Photo: Yumari by Uta Uta Tjangala (c. 1926–1990) of the Pintupi people. (Supplied: British Museum)
The exhibition also includes the masterpiece Yumari, a design which now features on the watermark of current Australian passports, along with a protest placard from the Aboriginal Tent Embassy established in 1972, contemporary paintings and specially-commissioned artworks from leading Indigenous artists.
The exhibition is expected to bring these artefacts to a wide audience – the British Museum welcomes over 6 million visitors a year, similar to the total number of overseas visitors to Australia.
“The objects displayed in this exhibition are immensely important,” the museum said in a statement.
Indigenous children dress in traditional outfits in preparation for the Rey Curré festival. Courtesy The Culture Ministry
The moment tourists arrive at a Costa Rican airport, they see artifacts of the Boruca people: elaborately painted balsawood masks hang in the souvenir shops, sculpted like monsters, jaguars, and playful demons.
Travelers stop, lean into the masks, and wonder, Now where did these come from?
But to really understand Boruca heritage, amateur anthropologists should attend the 22nd Indigenous Cultural Festival in in the deeply rural community of Rey Curré.
The annual event is a comprehensive celebration of Boruca culture. (Also note that while they are commonly known as “the Boruca,” the more accurate nomenclature is the “Brunca”).
“These cultural spaces are very important, because they offer a place that the community needs,” said Uriel Rojas, a community representative, in a press release.
“The customs, traditions, traditional cuisine, games, crafts, artistic skills, oral tradition, archaeological heritage, [and] natural medicine are part of the different themes showcased at the community during these days of celebration.”
Among outsiders, the Boruca are particularly famous for their “Juego de los Diablitos,” or “Game of the Little Devils.”
The custom began during the conquistador invasion, when Boruca warriors discovered that the Catholic Spanish were afraid of demonic imagery and crafted fearsome-looking masks.
Today, Boruca descendants enact playful rituals wearing this devilish headgear, a unique mix of pre- and post-colonial ceremony.