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BOOK REVIEW: Sioux warrior and his times
Question of the Day
Crazy Horse’s Indian name was Tasunka Witko, which means far more in Sioux than is suggested by its literal English rendering. Mr. Powers offers this long and nuanced translation, which emphasizes both Crazy Horse’s gravitas and his spiritual life as a man granted the gift of many visions:
“[H]is horse is imbued with a sacred power drawn from formidable spiritual sources, and specifically from the thunder beings who roil the sky in storms.”
Why was he killed? Mr. Powers shows that Crazy Horse had very few friends he could trust by the time he died. Fellow Sioux, even many who had been close to him, such as Little Big Man, had turned on him. The reason was that Crazy Horse wouldn’t compromise. Long after other Sioux chiefs had agreed to settle down and live on reservations, he refused, wanting to remain free.
And most whites - especially soldiers and officers - could never forget Little Bighorn. As Mr. Powers notes, not even during the very bloody Civil War had a single battle wiped out an entire command, as Custer’s was in that single battle.
So when Crazy Horse voluntarily turned himself in at Fort Robinson in September 1877, a year and two months after Little Bighorn, everyone - soldiers, his fellow Indians - were in an uncertain, touchy mood.
Crazy Horse, who did not expect to be jailed, resisted when Indians and soldiers escorted him to a stockade. In the ensuing tussle, he was bayonetted twice in the lower back. Mr. Powers gives the varying accounts of exactly what happened offered by eyewitnesses, most of whom were deeply troubled by the event and grew more so as time passed.
The legend, too, began to grow. No one knows where Crazy Horse is buried. The family kept it secret.
There is no known photograph of the man who has become one of the most highly regarded of all Indians, perhaps, as Mr. Powers implies, because so much about him remains a mystery.
This is a masterful book, an epic read. Mr. Powers has repaid the Indians he found compelling and mysterious as a kid 60 years ago with this marvelous, well-told tale.
Stephen Goode is a writer who divides his time between Milton, Del., and Albuquerque, N.M.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
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