Introduction to the Feathered Sun
by Thomas Yellowtail
I am very pleased to make an introduction for Frithjof Schuon. Our friendship is now more than 36 years old and we have seen each other often during that time. Each time we meet we speak about many different things, but we always talk about traditional Indian religion. Because of these talks, I know how he feels about our way.
When we first met, I was a common man and not well known. Although I was a sun dancer, I was not yet selected to be a medicine man and the Sun Dance Chief of the Crow tribe. Our friendship has always been based on the love we both have for all sacred things and prayer. This is the most important thing for both of us, prayer and the sacred. In this we are in the same boat.
We first met in 1953. In that summer of 36 years ago, my wife and I were members of a group of Crow Indian dancers who toured Europe, North Africa and the Middle East performing traditional Indian dances. On that trip we performed in Paris for several weeks. One day the Schuons introduced themselves to my wife and me in the lobby of our hotel. They explained to us that they had watched our performance for several days and wanted to meet us. We spoke awhile and knew right away that we had much in common. During the next few days in Paris we saw them often and even held a Sun Dance prayer meeting with them in our hotel room. We arranged to meet them later and stay with them at the Schuon home in Switzerland. About a month later our opportunity came and my wife and I spent a week in the Schuon home. That is how we met.
In both 1959 and 1963 the Schuons traveled to the United States to attend the Shoshoni Sun Dance with me and to meet with Indians of many tribes. In 1963 we camped together in Yellowstone Park. I was with Mr. Schuon in Sheridan, Wyoming in 1959 when he was adopted into the Sioux tribe in a ceremony at the All American Indian Days. Each year since 1980 we have come together for a visit. During one of these visits in 1987, I held a ceremony and adopted him as a member of my family. It is better that he is now both a Crow and a Sioux.
Mr. Schuon's paintings are very good. The paintings in this book are only a few of the many paintings he has made. His paintings show the spirit of the olden day Indians. They allow a person to look back and see the old timers in their sacred surroundings. Everything around the olden day Indians reminded them of their sacred center: the nature, the clothing, the tipi and the way of life. This is how it was and how it should be. Because Mr. Schuon knows and loves the spirit of the olden day Indians he can show this spirit in his paintings. This is very good to see. For most readers the paintings will help them understand how these old timers lived. I myself enjoy the paintings very much.
It is a very good thing to see a book with Mr. Schuon's writings about the American Indians. His words are important because he sees the Indian traditional religion with the eyes of a man who prays and who loves the Indians. He has studied all the religions in the world so he can compare our Indian ways to the ways of other religions.
If a reader starts to read a chapter and becomes confused because of some of the difficult words, don't stop or put this book down. Keep reading and you'll come to thoughts that you will understand. Everyone interested in religion can gain something with this book. Anyone who doesn't know the Indians will learn something about how it was in olden days and how it should be. Anyone who already knows something about the Indians will never forget this book. It is certainly an important message.
Foreward: Frithjof Schuon: Metaphysician and Artist
by Barbara Perry
Frithjof Schuon was born in Basle, Switzerland, on June 18, 1907. His father, a concert violinist, was a native of southern Germany, while his mother came from an Alsatian family. Until the age of thirteen Schuon lived in Basle and attended school there, but the untimely death of his father obliged his mother to return with her two young sons to her family in Mulhouse, France; and thus it was that Schuon received a French-language education in addition to his German one. At sixteen, Schuon left school to become self-supporting as a textile designer--a type of work which made only the most modest demands upon the remarkable artistic talent that he had as yet been given little opportunity to develop.
As a boy, Schuon had heard much about the Indians from his paternal grandmother, who as a young girl had spent some time in Washington D.C. There she had become personally acquainted with a Sioux member of a delegation of chiefs to the nation's capital, and although she was not allowed to accept his offer of marriage, she never forgot her Indian friend or his people and later transmitted her love and admiration for the Indians to her children and grandchildren.
After painting scenes of Plains Indian life for several years, Schuon finally met and made friends with a number of members of the Crow tribe in Paris, in the winter of 1953. They had come to Europe to give performances under the auspices of Reginald Laubin and his wife, the well-known performers and preservers of traditional American Indian dances. After their stay in Paris, several of the group came to Lausanne, Switzerland for a week of vacation between their theatrical engagements, in order to visit the Schuons--notably Thomas Yellowtail, who subsequently became an important medicine man and a leader of the Sun Dance religion. Five years later, the Schuons traveled to Brussels in order to meet a group of sixty Sioux who had come to give Wild West performances in connection with the World's Fair, and with some of whom they developed lifelong friendships.
These meetings paved the way for the Schuons' first visit to America, in the summer of 1959, when they were warmly welcomed on the Sioux reservations in South Dakota, and the Crow reservation in southern Montana. In the company of Indian friends they visited other tribes of the Plains and had the opportunity to attend a Sun Dance at Fort Hall, Idaho, on the Shoshoni-Bannock reservation. When at Pine Ridge, the Schuons were adopted into the family of Chief James Red Cloud, a grandson of the great chief known to history. The old chief gave Schuon the name of Wambali Ohitika--Brave Eagle--the name of his famous forbear's brother. Later, at an Indian festival in Sheridan, Wyoming, the Schuons were officially received into the Sioux tribe, and Schuon was given the name of Wicahpi Wiyakpa--Bright Star.
In 1963, the Schuons visited the Plains tribes a second time, spending the summer among their Indian friends and once again attending a Sun Dance. During this trip, Schuon took the opportunity to visit the grave of Black Elk in Manderson, South Dakota, and to spend some time with the venerable medicine man's son Benjamin in the Black Hills. He had already met him during his first trip to the West and then again in the fall of 1962 when the Schuons spent several days in his company in Paris.
Much of Schuon's intellectual knowledge may be accounted for in terms of his extraordinary aesthetic intuition. It suffices for him to see in a museum, for example, an object from a traditional civilization, to be able to perceive, through a sort of "chain reaction," a whole ensemble of intellectual, spiritual and psychological principles which operate within that world. An important point in his doctrine is that beauty is not a matter of taste, thus of subjective appreciation, but that, on the contrary, it is an objective and hence obligating reality; the human right to personal affinity or to "personal selection," is altogether independent from aesthetic discrimination, that is to say from the understanding of forms.