Life was uncertain in the 1800’s and it was a fight to survive. Stories of spiritual protectors were used to explain how tribal members survived when the odds were against them.
Tom Shakespeare Sr. shares such a story told to him in 1923 by his mother’s maternal uncle. The old Arapaho had married into the Gros Venres, a sub tribe of the Arapaho, and had lived with them most his adult life.
Whenever the Gros Ventres, in battle with whites or with other tribes were about to retreat or run from the enemy, a warrior would suddenly appear on a white horse, mounted to defend and check the enemy from a complete victory.
This had happened so often that the figure came to be known as the Gros Ventres son-in-law. It was in fact a spirit guarding them from slaughter and annihilation.
The Skypeople by Tom Shakespear Sr.
According to Tom, the Gros Ventre are now located at Fort Belknap, Montana, and still retain their tribal identity as Gros Ventre or Atsina. And I’m sure the Son-in-Law still watches over them, waiting to race his white horse into battle to defend his people.