As a college reporter Michael Blake author of Dances with Wolves, learned firsthand the vagaries of the press as he compared his firsthand recollections of events to what found its way into print. Realizing historical accounts were riddled with similar inaccuracies, Blake began wondering how much truth lay in the stories we learned about America’s dealings with what was then called the “Indian Problem.”
Blake examined twelve of the more infamous conflicts from the prospective of both sides of the battle lines beginning with the 1854 events surrounding the killing of a starving, crippled cow that staggered into a Sioux village. Forced to dispatch the animal when it began tearing up the village the Indians naturally enough, consumed it. From their viewpoint eating the cow was hardly worthy of notice and when asked, offered reasonable restitution. Greed, incompetence and arrogance eventually led to the wholesale slaughter of eighty-six and the incarceration of seventy additional Sioux, mostly women and children in a massacre. In a recurring theme, facts were glossed over and the commanding officer was hailed as a hero.
While most Americans are familiar with the disgrace that was Wounded Knee and other infamous massacres, Blake also includes a lesser known but perhaps even more interesting look at such things as Custer’s relationship with a Cheyenne woman who would later present him with a child. Ending with the duplicity that led to the death of Sitting Bull in the predawn hours of December 15, 1890 Blake portraits a history of cultural misunderstanding, avarice and lies that formed the basis of government policies that bare an uncanny resemblance to current world events.