Four Arrows

Four Arrows

I don’t mean for this to be a book review of The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud. An American Legend. Rather, I intend it to be an indictment of the genre of anti-Indianism[1] it represents. Although it is unlikely that its authors consciously set out to try and prove Western civilization’s superiority over the “barbarous Indians,” they nonetheless follow in the footsteps of those who have tried to do so:

  • The Invented Indian (1990) by James Clifton, who writes that “acknowledging anything positive in the native past is an entirely wrongheaded proposition because no genuine Indian accomplishments have every really be substantiated” (p.36);
  • Sick Societies: Challenging the Myth of Primitive Harmony (1992) by UCLA anthropologist, Robert Edgerton who writes about child abuse and other social maladies that were far more pervasive in primitive societies, proving the superiority of Western culture;
  • Lawrence H. Keeley’s War Before Civilization that proposes that civilization and centralized governments have overcome the horrors of primitive life (1997);
  • Robert Whelan’s Wild in the Woods: The Myth of the Peaceful Eco-Savage (1999) that offers such assertions as “Indigenous peoples have little to teach us about caring for the environment;”
  • Shepard Krech’s, The Ecological Indian: Myth and History, who asserts that the demise of the buffalo was the fault of the Indians themselves (2000).
  • Steven A. Lablank’s Constant Battles: The Myth of the Peaceful, Nobel Savage that concludes that technology and science have put mankind on the right trajectory for world peace in comparison to the barbaric behaviors of aboriginal people (2003);
  • Steven Pinker’s text, The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (2011) who uses exaggerated and erroneous stories about Indigenous violence against European colonists to make the case that we are better off now than in pre-state societies.

In fact, the negative impact of The Heart of Everything may be worse than these blatantly anti-Indian publications. The latter at least met with numerous scholarly and lay rebuttals. Not so with Drury and Clavin’s text. The high praise given it by such prestigious and progressive publications as Salon and the Boston Globe refer to the book’s “exceptional fairness and accuracy.” Of the many customer reviews at, only a few offer a single star rating and express intelligent concern for problems such as those I soon describe. I did, however, find one critical review by Tim Giago that is worth noting. Giago, also known as Nanwica Kciji (Stands Up for Them), is an Oglala, Lakota, as was Red Cloud. Born on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1934, he was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University; founded the first independently owned American Indian newspaper, now known as “Indian Country Today;” founded the Native American Journalists Association; and is a columnist for the Huffington Post where he posted a short editorial on January 19th, 2014 that challenged reviewer consensus that “honest treatment” was given to the new book’s history of Red Cloud and his people. He accuses the authors of “misguided interpretations” and says they “denigrate while patting the American Indian[2] on the back.”

It is true that Drury and Clavin sometimes praise Indian prowess in battle and occasionally criticize the treaty-breaking policies of the U.S. government and some misguided actions of its military. This gives the impression of fairness and accuracy in spite of their absence. As with hypnotic suggestions, the subtle ones have greater power than the more obvious directives. Ultimately, the book’s best-selling status reflects the success of what contemporary Lakotas refer to as the “Dances with Wolves” approach to the continued demeaning of Native Peoples, an approach that prioritizes Euro-centric people and values and ignores or dismisses the present by romanticizing or distorting the past. To do so, the authors have missed the mark on more things in one book than in any single anti-Indian text I have seen, save perhaps the entire series of Little House on the Prairie, now known as an exemplar in anti-Indian history (Wilder, 2006), with mistakes about social structure, role of women, inherent values, war-based cultures, individualism, art, the Sun Dance, the Black Hills, spiritual beliefs, health and hygiene and more.

As a Cherokee/Irish mixed blood and an Oglala relative and pipe carrier who has fulfilled his Sun Dance vows with Rick Two Dog’s Medicine Horse group, I have a degree of passion about this topic. I dedicated many years to critically researching and writing about the “Indigenous worldview” that ties together the great variety of Indigenous cultures. As a university professor, activist and author/editor of a number of relevant publications, I feel a sense of urgency about exposing anti-Indianism so as to encourage more people to awaken to the perspectives about life that guided human behaviors for most of our history, before “God moved indoors” to quote my old friend, Sam Keen (1994, p.iv).

With gratitude, I can say that I am not alone in this mission. In addition to the many brothers and sisters struggling to help their people and tell the world the truth about living in accord with the laws of Nature, many non-Indian thinkers are realizing that we can no longer afford to dismiss, denigrate or ridicule the history or wisdom of traditional Indigenous ways of knowing and relating to the world. Noam Chomsky is but one example:

The grim prognosis for life on this planet is the consequence of a few centuries of forgetting what traditional societies knew, and the surviving ones still recognize. We must nurture and preserve our common possession, the traditional commons, for future generations, and this must be one of our highest values, or we are all doomed. To regain this sensibility from those who have preserved it we must pay careful attention to their understanding and practices (Chomsky, 2013, back-cover).

Thus, my goal is not only to expose and rebuff some of the misguided and inaccurate material in the targeted text, but also to show how we must all be more mindful about assumptions that are rooted in the hegemonic education and media in which most of us are immersed. Only then might we turn the tide toward a more truthful understanding of the traditional American Indian knowingness[3] that Chomsky rightly says we all must start heeding, not as romantic fantasies but as practical solutions for a seriously at -risk future facing all of us.

It would take a book-length treatise to properly counter the many off-putting claims and inferences in the Heart of Everything that Is. I select a sampling of them here and offer only a cursory rebuttal, hoping the reader will research those topics further that pique their interest. A good place to start, although less significant perhaps than what follows, is with the book’s title and subtitle, starting with the subtitle, “The Untold Story of Red Cloud.”

The Sub-Title

It is not an untold story at all. The bibliography of articles, chapters and books about Red Cloud and his war against the whites would require many pages to present. George E. Hyde’s Red Cloud’s Folk: A History of the Oglala Sioux Indians (1937) and James’ C. Olson’s, Red Cloud and the Sioux Problem (1965) and Robert W. Larson’s biography, Red Cloud: Warrior-Statesman of the Lakota Sioux are some of the well known publications. As for as the publisher’s claim that the authors draw on a long-lost autobiography written near the end of Red Cloud’s life, this refers to a text easily accessible on and given little credibility by scholars. It is The Autobiography of Red Cloud: War Leader of the Oglalas (1997) and was compiled and edited by R. Eli Paul who put together writings from of a third-hand clandestine interview of Red Cloud late in his life whereby Charles Allen used Sam Deon, a conversation mate of Red Cloud, to capture the man’s personal story through a number of meetings. Red Cloud, like many American Indians, “refused to be written up, wanting no part of white man’s money-making book scheme” according to the editors introductory notes (p. 25). Paul continues to say that the document has some value, but should not be depended upon for accuracy:

When one reads such ethnocentric words as “savages” (pages 32, 66 and 183); “aboriginal; (p. 108), “barbarous (p. 73 and 150); “fiends (p. 127) and “high priest” (p. 110), one is reading Charles Allen and the intrusive editors, not the spoke(n) words of Red Cloud. The narrative will never stand as the last word nor significantly illuminate the events of ‘Red Cloud’s War.’ The history of the great man’s personal narrative, the document itself, is a detective tale. It involves a healthy dose of deception, bad luck, bad faith and erroneous judgments by scholars, which through years transformed its importance as an historical reference into a minor literary curiosity (Eli Paul, 1997 p. 26).

Little wonder that Drury and Clavin use words like “barbarous,” “and “savage” throughout their book. “Savage” is used at least ten times in sentences such as:

  • “Now dazzling Sioux war parties riding painted mounts rapidly and overwhelmingly extended their savage and relentless subjugation of neighboring tribes” (p. 56).
  • “His dictated account almost certainly smoothed the sharp edges of this savage youth” (p.63).
  • “Captain North wanted one more crack at the savages” (p.326).
  • “The captain ordered a volley fired at the impertinent savages” (p. 328).

And where the words are not used, similar ideas are nonetheless conveyed, as in “”For all their historic ruthlessness, the tribes had always lacked long-range planning…” (p.6) Or that their “untold story” continues a tradition of “deception” and “erroneous judgments” of too many antecedent stories.

The Main Title

            The main title of the book, The Heart of Everything That Is, comes from the spiritual beliefs of the Lakota that the Black Hills (Paha Sapa) of South Dakota are associated with their origins as a People, particularly Pe’ Sla, or Harney Peak, near the center of the Black Hills.[4] It is the place where Lakota star-knowledge, such as those relating to stories about Morning Star and the Pleiades, originated and has been handed down from longer ago than anyone can remember. It is literally and metaphorically at the heart of Lakota cosmology (Sundstrom, 1996, p. 177). Many sacred ceremonies originated and continue to be conducted in this sacred place. The Lakota have always conducted them and continue to do so in order to sustain both their community and humanity and other relations at large. They are done in accordance with times dictated by constellations and the growing cycles that are specific to the Black Hills region (Iron Eyes, 2012).

Thus, Paha Sapa is a critical source of Lakota identity, yet the authors refer to it only three times with any significance, in spite of an entire chapter titled “Paha Sapa.” Moreover, all three tend to disparage the Lakota beliefs, whether intended or not. In one place, the authors essentially dismiss the Lakota origin story beliefs as either superstition or strategic fabrications by referring to a conversation Red Cloud had with President Grant. Red Cloud attempts to explain the mystical connection his people had with Paha Sapa. Grant replies, “Horseshit,” and proceeds to say the Lakota only lived in the area for several generations and that the Lakota stole the land from the Crow (p.50). The authors offer no substantial counterpoints.

In another, near the end of the text, they refer to the 1868 treaty where the Black Hills were given back to the Lakota in a treaty that only lasted a year:

In the center of this tract, like a glittering jewel, lay the Black ills. Paha Sapa. The Heart of Everything That is. It was the proudest moment of Red Cloud’s life. That sentiment lasted a mere twelve months. For the Lakota were not finished dying. (italics mine)

And in a third place, the authors, who at least admit that no one will ever know for certain “who was the first Sioux to ‘discover’” the Black Hills,” refer to an image of a pine tree on an Oglala Winter Count of 1775-1776, and the interpretation of an Army colonel named Garrick Mallery who owned it, as evidence for saying the Lakota were only in the Black Hills after 1775, “the summer before America’s Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence” (p. 345). Yet the authors could have referenced one of their cited resources to tell the reader that “There are good reasons to doubt Mallery’s interpretation” (Ostler, 2010). For one, the tree symbols involved more likely meant the Lakota had run out of cedar for ceremonies and returned to the Black Hills on that date to get more, not that they were discovering the place for the first time. The very mobile Lakotas lived within four hundred miles of the Black Hills in the 16th century. The authors might also have said that many of their names for the months relate to growth cycles of plants found only in the Black Hills. Or that 13,000 year-old petroglyphs and pictographs represent a number of important symbols of Lakota spirituality, such as the Wakinyan or Thunder Bird have been found in the Black Hills. They might have referenced how the seven sacred ceremonies of the Lakota are aligned with specific places in the black hills. “Of the seven Sacred Sites, honored by our ancestors, only the four named above are known at this time. We have a general idea of where the other three sacred sites are located, but we are not exactly certain (Kills Straight, 2004).

All of this offers some credibility to the oral histories of the Lakota and other tribes about their origins being associated with this place. The authors might at least have had a footnote about the current and quite famous contemporary legal battle over the Black Hills, the United Nations recommendations to give them back to the Lakota, and the Lakota’s refusal to accept monies for the land.

Their Assertion that the Lakota Are a Patriarchal Society

This may be one of the most egregious single assertions in the book. Early on in their writing, after some gruesome descriptions about the savagery of Indian men, the authors assert that the Lakota were/are a patriarchal society:

Theirs was a patriarchal society with tribal affiliation passed from father to son, a simple solution for men fathering children with multiple wives from different bands. Leaders-called “Head Men” and “Big Bellies”- were for the most part chosen on merit. In some cases a chief would create an inside track for his favorite son, but even then the inheritor would have to earn the band’s loyalty…(p.37).

Actually, the Lakota are and always have been matrilineal. A large body of legitimate evidence exists in support of this, both from the Lakota themselves and from a number of credible folks documenting it over the past two hundred years. Simply put, American Indian women had significantly more authority and autonomy than European women (Megalopensis, 1898, Bilharz, 1995, Shoemaker, 1995, Lauter, 2009, Stebbens, 2013). Women controlled most of the tribe’s resources. When men married they lived with the wife’s relatives. Women elders were highly respected and adult women had equal power in decision-making. The children belong to the mother’s clan. Today, in spite of the loss of language and culture and in spite of hundreds of years of anti-matrilineal propaganda, the Lakota women are still the backbone of the Lakota nation. (Interestingly, the 13,000 year-old cave paintings make many connections between the feminine and the buffalo, perhaps revealing how both give sustenance.)

The importance of the error in labeling the Lakota as patriarchal and how it helps set the tone for the entire book is illustrated by the words of Lakota activist, Russell Means who writes passionately about his matriarchal society, emphasizing the negative orientation of patriarchy as is generally practiced not by the Lakota, but by its European conquerors. His words support what Lafitau Lafitau wrote in 1712: “Nothing is more real than the woman’s superiority. It is they who really maintain the tribe, the nobility of blood, the geological tree, the order of generations conservation of families. In them resides all the real authority”(1974, p. 69).

My People, Lakota, also known as Sioux Indians, are Matriarchal. I was raised in a Matriarchal home, and when I married, I married into Matriarchal homes. I know my history and I know my People, therefore I can speak about the values and complexity of Matriarchy.

Matriarchy is a balanced society. Now listen very carefully, and please attempt to grasp the big picture. In our Matriarchal society, all the sexes celebrate our strengths. We are a society completely devoted to not harming another living being’s feelings; be it an insect, a tree, our Grandmother, the Earth, or anyone that lives. We understand that all life comes from one Mother and it is our duty to respect our relatives. Another simple explanation is: try to imagine raising a child without the word “no,” which is another manifestation of Matriarchy. Imagine a society building a structure wherein you do not put anyone in a position to say no. Try to understand how these Matriarchal societies built clan systems that prevent incest at every level and provided for instant conflict resolution.

Patriarchs fear everything. What does the Patriarch fear the most? It is the Woman. That is why for over 6,000 years he has demonized, dehumanized, dominated, terrorized and controlled women. In Patriarchy is there anything the Patriarch does not fear??!

My ancestor, Luther Standing Bear, wrote circa 1900, “When a man fears the forest, he will want to control the forest, and what he can’t control, he will want to destroy” (Means, 2006).

A similar sentiment is offered by Alex White Plume, the Lakota Oglala Sioux Tribe President in 2004 who in an interview that year said:

The women in our Lakota way is of the blood, pure blood. We believe in that. So as a male we are matriarchal, we have to be matriarchal, there’s just no other way around it. And if you speak the language you have the natural tendencies to be matriarchal. And here our stories were matriarchal and then we’re living side by side with this patriarchal system.

How could such seasoned journalists miss the wealth of substantiation for the Lakota being matriarchal? Perhaps it was to justify or make congruent their claims that the “Sioux” men badly treated their woman who, according to the authors, were “closer to slaves than second-class citizens by modern standards of thinking” (p.65). If so, this would not be the first time that European chroniclers did not want to acknowledge the freedom and power of Native women, as Dr. Barbara Mann describes in Unlearning the Language of Conquest. In her chapter, “Where are Your Women: Missing in Action,” Mann, a Seneca woman and highly respected expert on the Iroquois Confederacy, writes:

This remains a good question for Western commentators, popular and scholarly alike. Women are missing-in-action in nearly all studies of Native America, whether historical, social or anthropological. I believe this is because westerners are still reacting to the panic that European patriarchs felt upon discovering Turtle Island chock-full of self-directed, articulate, and confident Native women, all demanding to be dealt with as equals. The initial Euro-male horror was frank and obvious in first-contact records and the recoil remains, skewing discussion (p. 121).

Mann continues to talk about how 18th and 19th century historians dedicated themselves to disregarding the strict matriarchal Indian societies in support of European patriarchal mandates.

Such revelations were pills too bitter for Western men to swallow- so they fixed up the record…Ohio Natives have traditionally called this tactic “pen-and-ink witchcraft,” that is, making the written record (which westerners promotes as the only record) say something completely different from what the living record said at the time and what oral traditions said afterward…The consequence of two centuries’ worth of sustained pen-and-ink witchcraft is a phonied-up picture of Native America, pared down to faceless male “warriors” (the actual term is “young men”) and a handful of visionary statesmen (p. 124 and 129).

Out-of-Context Emphasis Warfare

The connection between promoting patriarchy and dismissing the true role of women in American Indian societies is closely connected to the glorification and rationalization of war. If indeed Drury and Clavin really are continuing the tradition of Western hegemony’s “pen and ink witchcraft,” one might argue that their apparent interest in war heroism and strategy might play a role in their anti-Indian prose. By exaggerating or taking out of context the warfare orientation of the Lakota and other tribes they mention, they support the contention that war is a natural part of humanity. At the same time, by applauding the Indian’s warrior traits while also picturing them as dirty, blood-thirsty, women dominating savages, they show that this part of human nature, i.e. being war oriented, proves that it is a good thing modern civilization took over. Such an intricate motivation for anti-Indianism is well established and often encourages a sense of nationalistic righteousness about American war efforts throughout history. Axtell explains this process when he writes, “Despite the cultural variety of “Native Americans,” Euro-American “whites” compressed and submerged them into a generic “Indian” for their own purposes, mainly as foils against which to define their own superiority” (Axtell, 1987). [5]

I cannot judge the authors potential for having fallen into this role of hegemonic gatekeeping, and it may be unfair of me to criticize a book intended to be about the history of a particular war for being too supportive of the concept of war. However, one must consider if how and why they wrote the Red Cloud book is somehow related to their other books glorify war and the American military, such as Last Men Out: The True Story of America’s Heroic Final Hours in Vietnam, and The Last Stand of Fox Company: A True Story of U.S. Marines in Combat, the latter which was awarded the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation’s General Wallace M. Greene Jr. Award for nonfiction. I also think it is significant to note how they end this book, for how an author ends a book says much about their point-of-view. Their last paragraph seems to be saying exactly what I have alleged- that the development of Western civilization was a sufficient motive for Indian genocidal policies:

If Red Cloud could read he might have comprehended the motives of the whites. Although it is still doubtful that he would have understood. Years later, William H. Bisbee attempted to come to grips with an overriding rhetorical question of that bygone era- “for what purpose did the United States fight Red Cloud?”

“My only answer could be,” General Bisbee wrote, “we did it for civilization” (p.365).

Indeed, this last sentence seems to summarize the entire book. From its beginning, the authors paint an ugly picture of the “uncivilized” warlike personalities of the Lakota:

Captured whites were scalped, skinned, and roasted alive over their own campfires, shrieking in agony as Indians yelped and danced about them like the bloody-eyed Achilles celebrating over the fallen hector. Men’s penises were hacked off and shoved down their throats and women were flogged with deer-hide quirts while being gang-raped. Afterward their breasts, vaginas, and even pregnant wombs were sliced away and laid out on the buffalo grass. Carrington’s patrols rode often to the rescue, but almost always too late, finding victims whose eyeballs had been gouged out and left perched on rocks, or the burned carcasses of men and women bound together by their own steaming entrails ripped from their insides while they were still conscious (p.9).


The first French explorers to make contact with the Sioux in the mid-1600s noted with not a little horror the tribe’s fierce and utter barbarism. The Europeans had long since adapted and reconciled themselves to the New World’s Stone Age cultures. But the Sioux’s vicious raids on their Algonquin neighbors to the north and east-and the sheer joy they took in tearing their enemies limb from limb with rocks, clubs, sharpened sticks and flint knives were more than they bargained for (p.35).

I grant that the authors offer a similar description of the American soldiers, albeit in significantly fewer places in the book and with a sense that American atrocities are temporary insanities, often provoked, in contrast to the permanent state of being accorded the Indians violent proclivities. For example, in their treatment of a particular famous series of battles, they write “After the soldier’s bodies were stripped of uniforms, boots, guns and ammunition, the customary orgy of atrocities ensued. Scalps were collected and limbs hacked away. Some of the bodies were flayed and skinned, others rolled into a roaring bonfire” (p. 128). Note that while the Indian atrocities are “customary,” even relished, the atrocities committed by the soldiers are described as full of revenge relating to a previous battle, as if the Indians had not suffered more than a hundred years of genocide by this point in time in the late 1800s. The authors go even further by excusing American initiated war atrocities in general:

It is not difficult to imagine the soldiers’ shooting spree as the visceral response of resentful, ill disciplined, and possibly drunken troops isolated in hostile territory. Personal revenge has occurred in armies throughout history and these overreactions foreshadowed American atrocities at San Creek, at Biscari, at My Lai, at Abu Ghraib. More over, the few officers stationed at Fort Laramie were young and inexperienced, unable to control their enlisted men, most of whom considered the Indians subhuman. The instigator of the killings was not even a soldier, but a hard-drinking half-blood interpreter…(p.134).

As I have said, such hegemony leads people to believe that war is integral to human nature, but that by way of Western civilization we have controlled the more primitive and inappropriate uses of it. In the same way hegemons do not want us to know about the healthy balance between men and women in pre-contact Indigenous societies, or that the Iroquois Confederacy provided the roots of American democracy (Johansen, 2006, pp 44-66), they do not want it known that pre-contact warfare was absent or rare in 73% of hunting and gathering societies and in nearly half of those employing some form of agriculture (Leavitt, 1977). Whether produced by academics who profess to be scholars, or journalists who claim to be writing true stories, efforts to show the Indigenous past as more violent and less ecologically oriented is guided by a desire to verify the righteousness of the dominant worldview. Johan M.G. van der Dennen explains the general phenomenon in his doctoral dissertation and subsequent 900 page-book, The Origin of War: The Evolution of a Male-Coalitional Reproductive Strategy:

Peaceable preindustrial (preliterate, primitive, etc.) societies constitute a nuisance to most theories of warfare and they are, with few exceptions, either denied or “explained away.” In this contribution I shall argue that the claim of universal human belligerence is grossly exaggerated; and that those students who have been developing theories of war, proceeding from the premise that peace is the “normal” situation, have not been starry-eyed utopians” (1995, p.2).

A section from a course on Arizona Indians taught at Northern Arizona University supports this premise that peace was the normal situation even for the Apaches, shown in not only our subject book on Red Cloud, but in many media depictions, as brutally war-like:

It is important to remember that before contact with the Spanish, the Apache were a relatively peaceful people. After this contact they acquired horses and began raiding both Spanish settlements and pueblos. The purpose of these raids was NOT to kill people, but to avoid contact while gaining wealth and honor through stealing of horses, cattle, and other goods. In the traditional Apache home, women were the anchors of the family. The residence was matrilocal, with high respect for the elderly. Honesty was valued above other qualities. The traditional Apache were primarily hunters and gatherers, and traditional arts included fine basketry.

Lakota Worldview and Values

In referring to the violent, warlike dispositions of the Apache, the Lakota and other tribes in their Red Cloud book, Drury and Slavin had a number of opportunities to describe the deeply held values of the Indians that would have shown how the violence was a forced diversion from their most cherished ways of being in the world, ways that caused many European invaders in the early days of conquest to desert in order to live with the Indians. Such worldview philosophies are mentioned but one time in The Heart of Everything that Is and as per usual only as a device to introduce more insulting “history.” In Chapter Nine, they tell a story purporting to show that Red Cloud’s desire to “erase the memory of his alcoholic Brule father” (p. 106) and marry into the right family in order to enhance his political power and leadership. The story includes the suicide of a girl Red Cloud jilted for this cause who truly loved him. In the opening pages, the authors write:

The four pillars of a Sioux leader-acknowledged by the tribe to this day- are bravery, fortitude, generosity and wisdom. Time and again Red Cloud exhibited each. Yet, traditionally, the Lakota also considered lessor factors when weighing the attributes of an aspiring Head Man (p. 108).

The authors go on to describe these lesser factors that relate to Red Cloud’s ambitions to climb the ladder to the top at all costs, a goal completely foreign to traditional Lakota values. Please do not get me wrong. All humans are potentially subject to the same weaknesses of character. Certainly many Lakota and other First Nations Peoples today have left behind cultural values that emphasize relatedness to all, generosity, honesty, humility, courage, etc., as a result of constant oppression, historical trauma (Aytes (2013), loss of identity, alcoholism and hegemonic education (Four Arrows, 2013). The stressors facing Indians in the 1800s no doubt created similar departures from the chanku luta, the red road. Whether or not the given history in this chapter about Red Cloud is true, we can never know, but it is possible. Yet in this one paragraph the authors essentially dismiss the entire Lakota nation’s true and historically verified way of life philosophy. First, the four values they mention, which can be found on numerous websites, are Lakota values, not just expected traits of a military leader. But if this is not bad enough, the authors only refer to the values as a lever to emphasize such attributes as self-centeredness, jealousy, betrayal, and unfettered ambition that disregards all values.

Every culture has such values as relate to universal virtues such as courage, generosity and fortitude. And who does not treasure wisdom? What is missing from the Red Cloud story through and through is a sense of worldview differences between the Euro-Americans and the Indians. Instead, the entire book is written as if the dominant worldview of the authors rightfully applies to the Indians. This is, of course neither new nor surprising, but it must be recognized for what it is. If the authors truly wanted to share a sense of the Lakota values, they might have better described the ways the People understood bravery (courage), wisdom, fortitude and generosity in very different ways than these concepts are understood in mainstream thinking. I have written about this elsewhere (Jacobs and Jacobs-Spencer, 2008, and Jacobs, 1998) and prefer to close this subject by simply offering one of the many other iterations of Lakota life philosophy, one that might lead to a deeper, more valid understanding of the culture, then and now.

I submit that an authentic history of the Lakota shows that, although the pre-contact Lakota, like most other tribes, varied in their particular inclinations as relates to violence, whether relating to raids to capture wives, display courage, or settle disputes, and that although having words to define one’s social goals can have little to do with actualization, the Lakota “walked their talk” and many still do in ways that are not brought to life in The Heart of Everything That is and its story about Red Cloud, his People and Allies. Perhaps the next time someone reads the authors’ claim that “warfare among Indians was simply a way of life (p.40), there will be some critical hesitation and an effort to do some Internet research to see if this is true. I recommend starting with Yale University’s Human Resource Area Files or the website,, or my own edited volume, Unlearning the Language of Conquest published by the University of Texas Press. The following are some words from the co-founders and co-directors of the Indigenous Law Institute, Virgil Kills Straight and Steven Newcomb, from “Toward an Oglala Lakota Constitution Statement of Basic Principles” (2004) that may help inspire such an investigation:

The purpose of an Oglala Lakota Constitution is Wolakota, a spiritual way of life, based on the Seven Laws that were handed to our People by the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe Woman. Wolakota is a life of peace, friendship, brotherhood and sisterhood, treaties, and right relationship between and among the members of the Nation, within each family circle (Tiwahe), within each extended family (Tiospaye), within the Oglala Lakota Nation, and within the Oceti Sakowin as a whole. Wolakota is also right relationship and respect between human beings and all forms of life, as well as between and among allies.

At one time a written Oglala Lakota constitution was not necessary because the People understood and lived a life of Wolakota. Thus, the main purpose of the Oglala Lakota Constitution, based on the Seven Laws, and the basic Elements of Life, is to achieve healing and revitalization for the Oglala Lakota Nation. Four key Elements of Life provide the very basis of our Life as a Nation: makoce (earth, land, matter), mni (water, movement, liquid sustenance), peta (fire, lightning, laser energy), oniye (air, breath). These four Elements of Life and the Seven Laws provide the basis of the Fundamental and Organic Laws of the Oglala Lakota Nation. By upholding and living in accordance with these Natural Laws, we will achieve health, strength, security, and well-being within our Sacred Oyate. Decisions made by the government of the Oglala Lakota Nation ought to manage the affairs of the Nation with regard to the well-being of the People seven generations into the future. The laws, regulations, and codes of the Nation all fall under one or more of these four Elements of Life.

Woope Sakowin (Seven Laws)

  • 1) Wacante Oganake, “To help, to share, to give, to be generous.”
  • 2) Wowaunsila, “Pity, Compassion.”
  • 3) Wowauonihan, “To Respect, to Honor.”
  • 4) Wowacintanka, “Patience and Tolerance.”
  • 5) Wowahwala, “To be Humble, To Seek Humility.”
  • 6) Woohitike, “To be Guided By Your Principles, Disciplined, Bravery and Courage.”
  • 7) Woksape, “Understanding and Wisdom.”

Other Problems

It would take too many more pages to properly address a number of other inaccuracies and anti-Indian assertions and inferences, however, closing with a brief introduction of some of them will help readers understand the pervasiveness of the kinds of misunderstandings and false assumptions that have plagued our Native neighbors for centuries and have prevented their wisdom from hundreds of thousands of years surviving and thriving in the Americas. Below identify the author’s apparent belief or assertion and follow it with a brief counter-argument. My responses are far from adequate but with a little time and reasonable discretion about sources, the reader can use the Internet to easily find ample counter-positions.

“Disease and alcohol would kill more Plains Indians than all the battles with the whites combined.” (p. 40)

 Early on in the book, the authors set the stage to minimize the reader’s concern apparently that the Americans are going to be the villain in this story. The word, “genocide,” is not mentioned once in the text in spite of its relevance to “Red Cloud’s War.” There is no doubt that diseases like small-pox killed many Indians and there are researched opinions, albeit controversial, that some of it was intentional with the use of giving the Indians small-pox laden blankets. However, the accuracy of this claim is highly suspect. For example, Russell Thornton’s text, American Indian Holocaust and Survival (1990), shows the Indian Wars caused a significant portion of the “extermination” of American Indians by 1890. William Osborn’s book: The Wild Frontier: Atrocities during the American-Indian War from Jamestown Colony to Wounded Knee (2000) shows that the forced marches alone killed a large number of people. For example, he estimates that 4,000 of 14,000 Cherokees died on the Trail of Tears. He explains that such statistics were not officially included as battle deaths or part of any “atrocities.” There were also large numbers of Indians who starved to death as a result of the destruction of wildlife such as the buffalo. Do Drury and Clavin not see this as a strategy of war?

In 2009, Dr. Mary Hamer, M.D., wrote in the December issue of Countercurrents an apology for the decimation of the American Indians I share to close this brief rebuttal:

This essay is about the intent to kill with premeditation, reckless endangerment with depraved indifference, cruelty & other harms committed by Columbus, the European settlers & descendants, the American & European governments, Christian churches, etc. to the Native American people. This paper is about 1st degree murder with malice aforethought as well as manslaughter & criminal negligence with reckless disregard for human life. Furthermore, these crimes against the Native American Indians did not stop with our forefathers; These crimes by the dominant society continue to the present day, including neglect & deprivation.

“Given their diet, lifestyle, and, at best, casual hygiene, most adult Indians had teeth like a crazy fence” (p.56)

This is literally another page taken out of the propaganda literature of the 19th century. The scholarship challenging this assertion is significant. For example, Herman Viola and Carolyn Margolis, authors of the book Seeds of Change: The Story of Cultural Exchange after 1492 write, “Another factor that promoted lower rates of disease was an emphasis on personal hygiene and sanitation.” Vogel writes in his book, American Indian Medicine, “Contrary to the assumptions of many whites, aboriginal Indians were a clean people and had a much higher regard for bathing than was common among their white neighbors” (1979, p.45). In their article on personal hygiene and American Indians, Keoke and Porterfield support this claim as does Ohio State University Professor Richard Steckel whose co-authored study, “Standing Tall: Plains Indians Enjoyed Height, Health Advantage,” reviewed data from of 1, 123 Indians from eight equestrian Plains tribes, including the Lakota, that “despite the many technological advantages that the European-American settlers had over the American Indians, the Plains tribes enjoyed better health” (2001). The Lakota, like many tribes, believed that bathing was a form of spiritual purification and the initi, or house of vapor (aka “sweat-lodge), was one of their most sacred ceremonies. Indians of the northern plains “bathed on a daily basis, even in winter” (IBID, p.11)[6]

Your Turn

As much as I want to expose the falsities of the remaining ten false or misleading statements from our two authors of the Red Cloud history, I have run into my word limit. Also, long ago the great psychologist and writer, Sam Keen, told me while we were riding horses that one of the problems with my writing is that I don’t give the reader any room for his or her own view. So I leave these ten quotes to you. If you wish, it is your turn to challenge the rest of the inaccuracies in the book I’ve quoted below. If your curiosity and time available does prompt you to use solid Internet research to question and answer some of these, I recommend you do so with a careful eye for the source’s credibility and not use the “expert” Drury and Clavin admit to using for their book! They write, “Robert Utley, reviewed a draft of this manuscript for omissions and any errors in both judgment and fact” (p. 367). Allow me, since I’ve started on this, to make Utley my last critique.

Robert M. Utley, born in 1929, was the chief historian for the National Park Service and a historian of the old west, with especial interest in military histories, as per Drury and Clavin. In 1963 he authored, The Last Days of the Sioux Nation (1963). Like the 2014 Red Cloud book we have been discussing, it received major accolades from the media. “A major job… magnificently researched.” San Francisco Chronicle; “By far the best treatment of the complex and controversial relationship between the Sioux and their conquerors yet presented and should be must reading for serious students of Western Americana.”-St. Louis Post Dispatch, etc. In a 1965 edition of American Anthropologist, John C. Ewers of the Smithsonian Institute writes a book review of Utley’s text. He expresses somewhat critically that Utley was exceptionally sympathetic with the American soldiers, perhaps an unpopular decision in the Academy in the 60s. He points out that Utely felt the massacre at Wounded Knee was merely an accident and that the soldiers and American government should not be blamed. Ewers concludes, “Certainly Utley’s appraisal of this last significant battle between Indians and Whites in the United States will not be popular among those whose critical judgment of this tragic action tends to be influenced by their sympathies” (p.1393).

I offer this feedback with all due respect for Mr. Utely whose work I was unfamiliar with until now with some incredulity that Drury and Clavin relied upon the expertise of an 85 year-old federal historian whose work back in 1965 was criticized by a Smithsonian scholar as being of a similar nature to the critiques I have levied in this paper. One of my pet peeves with my doctoral students is when they use outdated reference material for their citations without checking its potential bias, unless of course, the views of the authors and their “expert” were in harmony.

And now, here are some other important misleading or fully inaccurate quotes from the authors that I hope a number of you will challenge!

  1. “From literally the first day European emigrants set foot on the New World’s fatal shores, whites and Indians had engaged in bloody, one-sided, constant battles” (p.6).
  2. “Tribes had always lacked long-range planning” (p. 150).
  3. “One could make the case that despite his people’s deep political tradition of near fanatical individuality, he may have even acceded to the concept of a single Sioux “chief” most likely because it would have been himself” (p. 34).
  4. “Native American animal husbandry had lagged about four millennia behind the rest of the world” (p.36).
  5. “It was the hostile Chippewa who dubbed these people’s “Sioux” or “Little Snakes” (p. 37).
  6. “Also, as other tribes took their first, tentative steps into modernity, this cultural leap seemed impossible for the hunter-gather Sioux. Had some of their historical contemporaries- the imperious Aztecs, the sophisticated Cherokee, the politically savvy Iroquois-been aware of their existence, they would probably have considered the Sioux laughable or subhuman” (p. 40).
  7. “Some historians argue that the Great horse Dispersal actually stunted Sioux society by preventing the tribes’ progression into “civilized” pursuit of agriculture, hierarchical organization and social diversification” (p. 56).
  8. “Whites observed a tribe that hunted and grubbed for a living with flint arrows and stone tools and exhibited no artistic tendencies other than painting their bodies and faces with hideous designs in preparation for battle” (p.36).
  9. “The majority of tribes believed that all humans went to the same idyllic afterlife in the exact physical condition in which they died…a literal Happy Hunting Ground” (p. 56)
  10. “There were numerous self-torture and vision-fasting purification rites that Lakota fighting men undertook, but none was as notorious-or as fearsome and unfathomable to whites- as the annual Sun Dance: ceremony. Sioux braves (and, in a few rare cases, women) believed that only by subjecting the body to excruciating physical suffering could an individual release the spirit imprisoned in the flex and come to understand the true meaning of life. It was the key, the Sioux believed, to gaining a physical edge, to avoid bad luck and illness, and to ensuring success during the hunt and in battle” (p. 77).



[1] See Elizabeth Cook-Lynn’s book, Anti-Indianism in Modern America (2001) and Four Arrows’s edited text, Unlearning the Language of Conquest: Scholars Expose Anti-Indianism in America for more on this concept.

[2] As does Tim, I also use the unfortunate word, “Indian,” to describe the various tribal peoples referred to in the book. Words like “Indian,” “Sioux,” “chief,” and many others have been used for so long, the disrespect they might convey has become more a matter of intent.

[3] I readily admit that Indian people, whether full-blood or mixed, whether living on reservations or not, are losing such knowingness, along with the language that fosters it, under the continuing oppression of colonization and loss of identity.

[4] The Lakota language is very descriptive and the name comes from what the Black Hills looks like from above, an area darkened by the colors and shadows of the trees that populate it.

[5] I must admit that I am not a fan of Axtell overall as I think some of his writings seems to me guilty of the problem he describes here.

[6] See also: National Library of Medicine. United States 19th-Century Doctors’ Thoughts about Native American Medicine. URL: