Book Review: Lance and the Shield

Pages: 5 (1462 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Native Americans  ·  Buy This Paper

SAMPLE EXCERPT:

[. . .] This spate of violence - which continued during the 1866-7 Red Cloud's War - ended in a treaty between the U.S. government and the Indian nation that granted the Black Hills in perpetuity to the Sioux.

However, the United States began to break the treaty almost as soon as the ink was dry as gold prospectors and miners poured into Sioux territory in the 1870s and the U.S. did little to stop them. It was as a result of problems caused by the incursions of these miners and prospectors that the Battle of Little Bighorn was fought.

The U.S. losses here would lead to the 1890 massacre of Sioux men, women and children at Wounded Knee, the final battle in the four-centuries-long war between the indigenes of North America and those settlers who came later. Sitting Bull had died two weeks before Wounded Knee, and so was spared seeing this final, terrible defeat.

The two greatest influences on Sitting Bull, who became the leader of the Lakota division of the Sioux in about 1868, were his introduction at an early age to warfare and his religious faith, which was very strong.

Although Sitting Bull first served as a Sioux warrior when he was only 14 - in a raid on a Crow encampment - he was always interested in trying to use peaceful means to settle conflict both inside of Sioux society and between the Sioux and other peoples.

Perhaps even more important was his first exposure to American soldiers, which happened in June 1863. At that time, the U.S. army was engaged in a series of attacks on American Indians as an act of revenge for the Santee Rebellion in Minnesota. Though the Lakota Sioux had taken no part in that rebellion, the army still made raids on them. This act of violent and entirely unjust retribution must have influenced Sitting Bull's disinclination to trust American soldiers.

His interest in peace was demonstrated when he was still very young he became a leader of the Strong Heart Warrior Society, which was concerned with developing the moral character of young men so that they would only fight when it was absolutely necessary. When he came of age, he became a member of a group called the Silent Eaters, which was a sort of proto-welfare agency that was charged with ensuring that everyone in the tribe had enough.

We can see that from his youth Sitting Bull focused on the four virtues that Utley describes as well as on the joint offensive/defensive strategy that Utley describes in the title of his book: Sitting Bull helped throughout his life to prepare his people for peace as much as he did to prepare them for war.

Sitting Bull was always very much involved in the religion of his people, participating in the Sun Dance and serving as a holy man who tried to use his own visions to provide spiritual guidance to the Sioux. He also supported the Ghost Dance, a revivalist pan-Plains movement that many American Indians participated in an attempt to win back their traditional lands and to bring back the favor the gods who seemed to have deserted them.

Conclusion

Given that Sitting Bull himself was killed and his people confined to a reservation, must we not conclude that his strategy was a poor one? No, Utley argues. Sometimes a person, and a people, can be lost to history despite their intelligence, fortitude, wisdom and bravery. Certainly Sitting Bull could not save his people. But it is impossible to imagine a man of greater conviction or courage. If he could not save the Lakota Sioux, then (Utley makes a strong argument) then they could not have been saved.

The history of humanity is far too often that of the virtuous being defeated by the strong. The Sioux were too few in number, lacking sufficiently powerful weapons, and too perhaps lacking the ruthlessness of the U.S. government. Sitting Bull remained true to his values and to the values of his people. He could not save their traditional lands, and much has been lost of their culture and language. But by holding on to traditional Sioux beliefs, he did in fact help to save something of the past, and all of those Sioux today who know of his wisdom and courage have inherited something of what he died… [END OF PREVIEW]

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