Aug 29, 2015

Possible Books for November 2015 -- History of American Indians

We have been reading about American Indian history, but have not read such a book recently. I asked Peter, a member who has written several books on American Indian history to suggest some possibilities for the club. Here they are:

The Lance and the Shield: The Life and Times of Sitting Bull by Robert M. Utley. 4.7 stars, 413 pages (314 pages of text). The book is no longer in print, but copies are widely available. Here is a review of the book. Here is Peter's comment: Utley was the dean of Western historians (he died recently, and I think this is his best Indian title).  I found it a very judicious and even-handed "life and times" work.
"His narrative is griping....Mr. Utley transforms Sitting Bull, the abstract, romanticized icon and symbol, into a flesh-and-blood person with a down-to-earth story....THE LANCE AND THE SHIELD clears the screen of the exaggerations and fantasies long directed at the name of Sitting Bull." THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW 
Reviled by the United States government as a troublemaker and a coward, revered by his people as a great warrior chief, Sitting Bull has long been one of the most fascinating and misunderstood figures in American history. Now, distinguished historian Robert M. Utley has forged a compelling new portrait of Sitting Bull, viewing the man from the Lakota perspective for the very first time to render the most unbiased and historically accurate biography of Sitting Buil to date. 
I Fought with Geronimo by Jason Betzinez. 4.7 stars, 214 pages. The book is no longer in print, but copies are widely available. Here is the Wikipedia entry for the book. Here is Peter's comment: This little gem is one of the most entertaining--and reliable--Indian memoirs. I used it quite a lot in my manuscript. Historians in general have a high regard for it.
The cousin and lifelong associate of Geronimo, Jason Betzinez relives his years on the warpath with the Apache chief. He participates in Geronimo's eventual surrender to the U.S. Army, goes to Florida as a prisoner of war, attends the Carlisle Indian school in Pennsylvania, and in 1900 joins his people at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where they had been moved by the government six years earlier. Trained as a blacksmith, he describes daily life on the reservation until the resettlement of many Apaches in Arizona. 
For Betzinez, there was a happy ending. When this memoir was first published in 1959, he was nearly a century old, settled on a farm in Oklahoma with his devoted wife and esteemed by his community.
Black Elk Speaks by by John G. Neihardt. 4.6 stars, 424 pages. 298 pages of text. Here is a video made on an anniversary of the original publication of the book. Here is Peter's comment:  Hands down the most important and evocative Indian memoir--rightly considered an American classic-history, spirituality, ethnicity, etc. Very reliable as a work of history. This book was selected for October 2015 discussion.
Black Elk Speaks, the story of the Oglala Lakota visionary and healer Nicholas Black Elk (1863–1950) and his people during momentous twilight years of the nineteenth century, offers readers much more than a precious glimpse of a vanished time. Black Elk’s searing visions of the unity of humanity and Earth, conveyed by John G. Neihardt, have made this book a classic that crosses multiple genres. Whether appreciated as the poignant tale of a Lakota life, as a history of a Native nation, or as an enduring spiritual testament, Black Elk Speaks is unforgettable. 
Black Elk met the distinguished poet, writer, and critic John G. Neihardt in 1930 on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and asked Neihardt to share his story with the world. Neihardt understood and conveyed Black Elk’s experiences in this powerful and inspirational message for all humankind. 
This complete edition features a new introduction by historian Philip J. Deloria and annotations of Black Elk’s story by renowned Lakota scholar Raymond J. DeMallie. Three essays by John G. Neihardt provide background on this landmark work along with pieces by Vine Deloria Jr., Raymond J. DeMallie, Alexis Petri, and Lori Utecht. Maps, original illustrations by Standing Bear, and a set of appendixes rounds out the edition.
Of the three, Peter most highly recommends Black Elk Speaks.

Here are the books on American Indians we have read to date:
Here are some books we read that had tangential relationships to the Indians:


  1. Cathy wrote: "For me we have read enough of Indians and cowboys for a while.

    "I would leave the room as a kid while my sister watched the above on TV.

    "Spanish roots would be interesting, as you mention."

  2. Allen wrote: "I haven't read the Geronimo book, but have read the other two & share Peter's endorsement of them. Either would be an excellent choice."