The Last Days of the Sioux Nation by Robert M. Utley, and: The Truth About Geronimo by Britton Davis, and: Sun Chief: The Autography of a Hopi Indian ed. by Leo W. Simmons (review)
- Western American Literature
- The Western Literature Association
- Volume 2, Number 3, Fall 1967
- pp. 249-251
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Reviews 249 The Last Days of the Sioux Nation. By Robert M. Utley. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1966. XIV -f- 314 pages, $1.95.) The Truth About Geronimo. By Britton Davis. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1963. XIX 253 pages, $1.95.) Sun Chief: The Autobiography of a Hopi Indian. Edited by Leo W. Simmons. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1966. xx 460 pages, $2.95.) In his commencement address to the University of Utah graduates this year Arnold M. Toynbee spoke of three sins, the sin of pride, of idolatry, and of impatience, to all of which we Americans are addicted. In discussing the third of these sins, he referred to the traditional American method of treating rocks, flora, and fauna with the same ruthless impatience. [The Americans], he said, “cut down the forests; they exterminate the bison; and they ex terminated—or, short of killing, corraled some of the human fauna too.” Toynbee was speaking particularly of the Sioux. Utley’s book gives us a balanced overview of this phase of our history. It is a sympathetic and moving account of the struggle of the Sioux peoples to retain their identity and their old way of life in the face of the encroaching white man’s impatience to get or to use their lands, to remake the Indians as farmers, and to bring about an immediate adjustment of Indian people to the white man’s aggressive, competitive way of life. Here the oft repeated story of the white man’s mis treatment of the Indian is seen in proper perspective, telling the white man’s side of the argument as well as the Indian’s. The account is presented with amply documented detail and yet simply and clearly. The gratifying result is that a reader is likely to go through this history as though it were inevitable and relentless tragedy. One very satisfying accomplishment of the book is the tracing of the inception and growth of the Ghost Dance religion, which had a basis in Christian philosophy and a tremendous potential for good but which, un fortunately, played an important part in bringing about the tragic slaughter of Indians and whites at Wounded Knee. Ironically, if the House of Rep resentatives had moved with the same speed in voting funds for Indian rations as it did in opening up Indian lands to white settlers, the Sioux would prob ably not have been driven by hunger and the desperate quest for a messiah to the heat of rebellion which culminated in the painful episode at Wounded Knee. The Truth About Geronimo is a simple and straight forward account of the author’s participation in the last phase of the struggle between the United States and the Chiricahua Apaches from 1882 to 1886. In reviewing the events of these troubled years in frontier Arizona, the writer, a West 250 Western American Literature Point graduate and a second lieutenant under General Crook, reveals not only the patient yet determined course which Crook followed in dealing with Indians but much of his own knowledge of Indian ways of thinking and acting. His knowledge was gained through four years of almost constant living with the Apaches, both on the reservation and in the field. Lacking the sense of style which gives a convincing literary flavor to the history of The Last Days of the Sioux Nation, this book, nevertheless, holds the reader and gathers suspense as the strenuous campaign to round up Geronimo and his forces in the mountains of Mexico draws to a close. The title is somewhat misleading. Not that the information concerning the notorious Apache leader is to be questioned, but the bulk of the book is only obliquely concerned with Geronimo. Of course, the troubles which in volved Cochise and his son Taza, and later Chihuahua, Chato, Natchez, Mangus, Loco, and Benito naturally enveloped Geronimo. He would, however, have been able to generate trouble by himself. But one gathers that the “truth” which Davis wants to establish about Geronimo is chiefly that the credit for running this wily foe down belongs chiefly to General George Crook and his men despite the fact...