November 2011

Book review: Son of the Morning Star

A look at Evan S. Connell's take on George Custer and the Little Bighorn

In death, George Armstrong Custer haunts the legacy of the Old West like a ghost trapped in a worldly realm, forever riding off to die with a good portion of his regiment at the storied Battle of Little Bighorn.

In this best-selling book first published in 1984 Evan S. Connell gives us his take on the subject in beautiful prose such as this:

“As values change, so does one’s evaluation of the past and one’s impression of long gone actors.  New myths replace the old.  During the nineteenth century G.A.C. was vastly admired.  Today his image has fallen face down in the mud and his middle initial, which stands for Armstrong, could mean Anathema.”

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.

Review: Voices Of Wounded Knee

A look at William S. E. Coleman's work on the infamous massacre

The last of four quotes at the beginning of this book comes from an Indian survivor of the Wounded Knee Massacre named Black Elk, who said of it:  “A beautiful dream, a wonderful dream, died there, there in the bloody snow.”

In the pages of this book, William S. E. Coleman takes the reader on a haunting journey in which the voices of truth-speaking Sioux  like Black Elk are interwoven with the fancy rhetoric of white politicians ,opinions and complaints of newspaper scribes, the sanitized claims of officers of the Seventh Cavalry, the more honest views of the enlisted men of the Seventh, and other observers, both white and Indian, to bring to life the events leading up to that senseless butchery of Chief Big Foot’s band on December 29th, 1890 which sounded the death knell of the dream Black Elk spoke of: the “Spirit Dance” (aka “Ghost Dance”) born of a vision of Paiute medicine man Wovoka who swore all the Indians had to do was dance and be peaceful to bring about the return of the Earth to them.