I like to occasionally read novels that I consider to be “the classics.” My version may include inheritances from Greece and Rome, but it also includes books like these. In the near future I will probably binge read from this genre, “the American West.” It’s a break from crime novels, although a reader will find criminal acts.
This is a valuable book for students and researchers to understand and expand knowledge of the history of oppression and, many times, murder that occurred of Native Americans by an ever expanding, manifest destiny driven external population. Although it was primarily White, Caucasians that perpetrated the murders, there were also Dog Soldiers (many of them African American) and even other Native Americans who sought vengeance for tribal rivalries. Despite the mixed group, the leaders and strategists of this near genocidal crusade were predominately White.
There were few redeeming features reported for the Whites. There was Three Star Crook who initially did his fair share of land expropriation and killing. Done mostly at the behest of his military and political superiors, after ten years he changed his views and felt that acting more justly would result in less problems that necessitated military solutions. At one point, he was forced to resign his position, thus having no impact on continuing discriminatory actions toward the tribes. This seems to have been the fate of other reformers reported in this work, such as the founder of the newspaper Tombstone Epitaph. Former Indian Agent Clum found he could influence actions outside the system rather than as a member of it.
Each chapter begins with a global view of what was going on in the world and the US for a specific year, such as 1878. By mentioning what was happening in politics, technology, and the arts, the reader can establish a historical point of view. This summary was followed by the pronouncements of influential tribal leaders of the year under consideration. Then followed a narrative relating to interactions between Whites and Native Americans for that year.
Despite such organization, it is easy for the reader to become confused as action jumps back and forth in time. Some tribal leaders traveled geographically, appearing in different territories in different years, or even in the same year. To resolve reader confusion, there is a great index at the end of the book with hyperlinks so a reader can choose to follow only the story of Cochise or Geronimo in a seamless narrative.
I read this after reading a collection of short stories Blasphemy by Sherman Alexie. In that collection of fictional short stories, it is interesting to read how the resentments formed and displayed in this factual account continue to play out today.