The Heart of Everything That is by Bob Drury & Tom Clavin

Find in catalogAlthough I’ve studied Native American and California Indian history with Ed Castillo, Chair of Native American Studies at CSU Santa Clara, in the process of reading books about Crazy Horse and the Battle of the Little Bighorn, I acquired many authors’ prejudice against Red Cloud, the man who took his people to the reservation.  Professor Castillo must have mentioned the fact that Red Cloud was the only chief ever to lead his warriors to victory over the U.S. Army.  In fact, Red Cloud held a coalition of Plains Indians together for over two years in order to accomplish his strategic and tactical victories.

In part, Red Cloud’s story has been told thanks to the rediscovery of an “autobiography” compiled by two white men, Pine Ridge friends of Red Cloud in his old age.  The two men talked with (interviewed) Red Cloud informally on a daily basis, writing down his accounts of the battles and his life with Pretty Owl, his wife of 50 years.  Other sources include newspapers, eyewitness accounts, journals and diaries.

Red Cloud’s father dies of alcoholism, leaving Red Cloud with a stigma that he must overcome within the tribe, both to win a wife and to acquire a position of leadership.  Unfortunately, he loses the woman he loves because he marries Pretty Owl, his first wife, without explaining his intention to his true love that he will marry her as well.  She commits suicide.

What happens to soldiers after the Civil War?  They fight Indians.

As part of his guerilla war, Red Cloud brings along a young brave we know as Crazy Horse. But, the Lakota and their allies are up against hardened officers: General William Techumsah Sherman, General Phillip Sheridan, Colonel Henry Beebee Carrington, and Captain William Judd Fetterman.  Crazy Horse’s acting ability as a decoy leads the army into the trap of waiting Arapahoe, Cheyenne and Lakota at Fetterman’s massacre, where over a 100 soldiers die.

Not until 1868 is there a treaty, closing forts and giving a large portion of Wyoming and Nebraska to Red Cloud’s band.  The peace of 1868 lasts only 12 months, thanks to Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

Red Cloud visited Washington D.C. numerous times.  The second time was in June of 1870.  He was shown an arsenal of army howitzers and other war material that led him to understand that there was to be no permanent victory against the white man.  But Red Cloud had garnered a prime piece of land for his people as part of the peace—until the discovery of gold.

Once his people are removed to Pine Ridge Reservation, Red Cloud lobbies for better lands, schools, and living conditions.  In Washington D.C. in 1877 he pleads with President Rutherford B. Hays: “I have the same feelings as all the white men have for their families; they love their children, as I do mine, and I would like to raise my children well.” A war chief, he is also a diplomat who continues to bargain for the Lakota’s welfare until six years before his death in l903.

Well-written, this biography provides a quick read for those interested in Native American history.  I was delighted to learn more than I recalled from my Native American classes, and I hope the book becomes a TV mini-series.  Native Americans, America’s invisible minority suffer while other minorities take center stage.  When I asked a pediatrician friend who works on Pine Ridge how it was going, he shook his head and said, “Worse and worse.”


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