Jack is this Monday’s book reviewer –
The Day the World Ended at Little Big Horn; Joseph M. Marshall
Six years ago Wendy and I set out on a road trip that wound up in North Dakota, and towards the end we visited Wounded Knee. We were surprised to see that the only sign was an obviously amateur locally made one and there was no historical marker. There were some tables down off the road with local Nakotas who were very willing to tell us what had happened there.
The following year we retraced our steps with a couple of friends and, this time, went further North to Little Big Horn. The contrast was very clear! A visitor center with books and souvenirs and a regular guided tour round the site where the message was all about the heroic ‘Custer’s last stand’.
Marshall’s book tells the history of the Nakota from the first arrival of French explorers in the 16th century right up to today. He is a professor of history, an academic and a Nakota. His book tells the story of Little Big Horn and Wounded knee from the Nakota perspective. It’s both triumphant and horrific, of course.
When we visited Little Big Horn we did the tour which was led by a local Nakota and he was following the script which was completely focused on the Custer story. So it was both refreshing and informative to read this book. It portrays the battle as a triumphant victory for the First Nations which led on, of course, to the vengeance that was wreaked at Wounded Knee.
Marshall comes right up to date in the 21st Century with the aftermath of the ‘Indian Wars’ including the removal of First Nation children to special schools, the stealing of the land and the removals to the reservations. He even mentions Sitting Bull joining Buffalo Bill’s wild west show for a tour of Europe!
I first became interested in this history when I discovered my grandad had seen Buffalo Bill’s show in my home town in Scotland in 1908. A good friend and marvelous songwriter discovered his father had also seen the same show and wrote this –