spiritual Awareness in the PrairiesnRuth Beebe Hill: Hanta Yo; Doubledayn& Co.; Garden City, New York.nby Maxine Steinmann11 anta Yo is a saga about a band ofnDakotah (Sioux) Indians, and an evocationnof their way of life in the late 18thnand early 19th centuries, before thenwhite man took possession of the Americannplains. As a work of fiction, thenbook has faults. It is too long (812npages), too detailed, and without realndrama. The characters are predictablentypes and archetypes, and the narrative,nfor all its seriousness, even sobriety,nis only occasionally moving andnvery rarely surprising. Yet Hanta Yonis well worth looking into, both fornwhat it does and what it aims to do,nand for the questions it raises aboutnfreedom and survival.nThere are two introductions. One, bynthe author, Ruth Beebe Hill, who spentnmany years investigating the life ofnthe Plains Indians; and one by ChunksanYuha, a Santee Sioux who instructednher in Sioux rituals and songs andnhelped her translate her book fromnEnglish into the Dakotah dialect. Fromnthere, it was retranslated back intonEnglish, or, if you will, into an Englishnversion of the Indian language. Thenpurpose of all this was to set things inna proper perspective, to ensure that thenappearances, the facts and artifacts,nof Indian life were portrayed within thencontext of Sioux values and aspirations.nOr—in the words of author and collaborator—tontell the story from thenviewpoint of Indian philosophy andnpresent a work that was “Dakotah” innessence, rather than something inventednor put together by outsiders.nDescriptions of the American Indiannof times past often emphasize his commitmentnto individualism, his beliefnMaxine Steinman is a journalist andnreviewer from the Berkshires.nS6inChronicles of Culturenthat freedom of choice was essential tonhis development as a whole person. Onenwriter. Dale Van Every (in Forth tonthe Wilderness) has noted that thenIndian, to become a man in the Indiannsense of the term, had to become “morenand more of an individualist. He mustnreject all discipline imposed by othersnwhile at suitable intervals he mustnmost rigorously discipline himself innorder to develop his skill, hardihoodnand courage as hunter and warrior.nEven his vices, including drunkenness,nhis saddest, were but further expressionsnof his innate freedom of choice…”n11 anta Yo provides a portrait ofnthe ideal individualist in the story ofnthe Teton Sioux, Ahbleza, whose experiences,nfeats and spiritual growthnas he progresses from childhood intonmanhood form the core of the book. Anhero in the Dakotah mold, Ahblezanis a brave and accomplished warrior; yetnhe is a warrior who finds battle lessnthan fulfilling, who prefers the role ofnpeacemaker, and who rejects the conceptnof revenge. He is, also, a loner whonwill not compromise his own vision ofnthings to impress or please others; henrecognizes no authority but himself.nAnd finally, he is a leader who observesnto the fullest the integrity of others;nthus, he will not presume to makendecisions for his people, although hendoes choose to die for them. His quest isnto get to the “heart of things,” to choosenhis way, to “own the earth”—in brief, toncome to his full powers. In the cry,nHanta yo, hanta yo, wakanya hibu welon—which means, “Clear the way, clearnthe way, in a sacred manner I come”—nhe expresses these powers and his perceptionnof the oneness of all power—nhis apprehension of essential truth.nLegends, it may be argued, are a formnof wish fulfillment, an expression ofnhow a people would like to think theynonce were in some noble past, or of hownthey might have become had theynnnreached their full potential. In the storynof Ahbleza, Hanta Yo implies that thenwarrior society was only a transitionalnphase of Indian existence—that spiritualnawareness, not fighting prowess, wasnthe true aim of Indian life. The legendnalso suggests that the commitment tonindividualism was not, despite whatnsome observers may have supposed,na commitment to self-indulgence, lacknof discipline or irresponsibility to thengroup. Nor was a person to be admirednmerely for doing what he felt like doing,nespecially if his acts involved cruelty,nfoolishness or deception.nA large part of Hanta Yo, and bynno means the least interesting part,nhas to do with the day-to-day life ofnthe Indians, their customs and ceremonies,nthe role of families and women,nthe general social and political organization.nThe portrait that emerges isnin many ways an appealing one—wenget a glimpse of relative orderlinessnwithout regimentation, of professionalismnat its best (scouts, warriors andnhunters had to know their business wellnto survive), of young people who arenwatched, trained and encouraged tonbe independent. We see a society thatnunderstands its own purposes—this inncontrast to our own world, where sonmuch that happens seems to makenno sense.nAlthough Hanta Yo describes somenof the more savage practices of thenDakotahs, the true savages (and paintednvery clearly as such) are the whitentraders who, bringing disease and alcohol,nominously appear on the scene.nOne of Ahbleza’s last acts is to leadnsome of his people away from the vicinitynof the trading posts. However,nbefore he dies, he leaves a message tonthe effect that the Indians should notnview all white men as bad. Given thenemotional underpinnings of the saga,nthis sentiment, though admirable, isnsomewhat less than convincing.nAs a free man the Indian couldn