Book sheds light on Indian Wars

Posted

When co-author Bob Drury appears in Denver on Nov. 14, he should attract many local history buffs who focus on the chaotic 19th-century Western American Indian Wars. He and fellow writer Tom Clavin have just published their account of the Ogalala Sioux chief Red Cloud — described as “the only Plains Indian to defeat the United States Army in a war, forcing the American government to sue for peace in a conflict named for him.”

The book is titled “The Heart of Everything That Is,” which is a translation for the Native American “Paha Sapa,” the sacred Black Hills area in what is now South Dakota. More specifically, the mystical “breathing” Wind Cave of the Black Hills is thought to be where the ancient gods delivered the ancestors of Red Cloud and his people.

When the “manifest destiny” proponents of the U.S. government eyed the potential gold in the Black Hills as fair game, there followed many years of broken treaties and fierce combat.

These authors write in clear descriptive terms about the lands the Sioux controlled at one time — said to be about 20 percent of the contiguous United States, shown on a map that extends from Iowa to Idaho and north into Montana. The Bozeman Trail, a main route for westward gold seekers and other settlers, ran through it.

The writers also are skilled in describing the total philosophical disconnect between whites and Indians — not new information certainly, but particularly well stated.

An autobiography by Red Cloud, dictated to a longtime friend, white trapper Sam Deon, was found, which offered new material.

The extensive bibliography cites the many original sources the authors found, such as writings by the commander of Fort Phil Kearny, Col. Henry B. Carrington. These lend color throughout the book, including domestic details from women and grisly accounts of slaughter.

On Dec. 21, a combative Capt. William J. Fetterman, sent out from the fort to protect a wood gathering train — and firmly instructed not to chase lurking Indians over the ridge — gave in to visions of glory and chased Indian scouts who had been teasing. (A final insult was when an insolent Crazy Horse mooned him and his troops, according to Drury and Clavin.)

He led his limited number of about 80 Bluecoats into an ambush by about 2,000 waiting warriors, resulting in what is now called the Fetterman Massacre, in which all the members of the Fetterman party were killed.

No comments on this story | Add your comment
Please log in or register to add your comment