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Book review: Lakota Noon

A look at Gregory F. Michno's take on the Little Bighorn

The battle of the Little Bighorn, aka Custer’s Last Stand …

Let’s see, just how many books have been written about this most famous of all the battles of the Plains Indian Wars?  Hundreds, of course.  So why, you may ask, does just another Little Bighorn book have to warrant special attention?

Well, for one thing, in this book, my friends, Gregory Michno approaches the subject with a clear eye that carefully evaluates each and every Indian account of the battle with special attention paid to distortions slipped in by accident or design by those who recorded it. 

Michno first describes his books mission in an intelligent preface, sets the stage in a part entitled “Village”

And then moves on from there into other parts entitled “Valley”, “Vantage”, “Vortex”, “Victory”, and then an epilogue entitled “Vagabonds” followed by an appendix, select bibliography, and index.  

From “Valley” to “Victory” Michno approaches the subject in what he calls a “stop action mode” with an approximated time frame from 3 P.M. to 6:20 P.M. and after.  Each segment of these parts focuses first on Native American accounts and then Michno analyzes them afterward to sift out what is fact or fiction, making for an engrossing narrative.   The various Indians discussed even have symbols for their tribes with their initials in them places next to their story so readers can cross-reference between chapters.  For example, Cheyenne have a hexagonal shape, so next to portions of the text dealing with, say, Two Moon, a hexagon with “TM” inside can be found next to it.

The first part about the valley contains an interesting surprise: by comparing where the valley lay along the river using geographical landmarks mentioned by Indians in their various accounts as opposed to how many miles long and wide (which was not the way they preferred to measure distances, Michno notes) he deduces the village, far from being, say, six miles long, was actually one mile long and a half mile wide!  He also argues, based on Indian accounts, that the men with the group under Custers personal command put up a far stouter fight than is thought as doom closed in on them.

I could go on, but it would spoil the findings of this, perhaps the best compilation of Native American accounts of the storied battle to date.

If you are a Custer buff, into the Old West, or just plain like history, this book is a good choice.