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Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History

Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History

4.4 10
by Joseph M. Marshall

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Drawing on vivid oral histories, Joseph M. Marshall’s intimate biography introduces a never-before-seen portrait of Crazy Horse and his Lakota community

Most of the world remembers Crazy Horse as a peerless warrior who brought the U.S. Army to its knees at the Battle of Little Bighorn. But to his fellow Lakota Indians, he was a dutiful son and


Drawing on vivid oral histories, Joseph M. Marshall’s intimate biography introduces a never-before-seen portrait of Crazy Horse and his Lakota community

Most of the world remembers Crazy Horse as a peerless warrior who brought the U.S. Army to its knees at the Battle of Little Bighorn. But to his fellow Lakota Indians, he was a dutiful son and humble fighting man who—with valor, spirit, respect, and unparalleled leadership—fought for his people’s land, livelihood, and honor. In this fascinating biography, Joseph M. Marshall, himself a Lakota Indian, creates a vibrant portrait of the man, his times, and his legacy.
    Thanks to firsthand research and his culture’s rich oral tradition (rarely shared outside the Native American community), Marshall reveals many aspects of Crazy Horse’s life, including details of the powerful vision that convinced him of his duty to help preserve the Lakota homeland—a vision that changed the course of Crazy Horse’s life and spurred him confidently into battle time and time again.

The Journey of Crazy Horse is the true story of how one man’s fight for his people’s survival roused his true genius as a strategist, commander, and trusted leader. And it is an unforgettable portrayal of a revered human being and a profound celebration of a culture, a community, and an enduring way of life.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In one of the first Penguin Lives biographies (1999's Crazy Horse), novelist Larry McMurtry drew on what scant facts he had to craft a brief and rather novelistic look at the legendary Lakota warrior. Here, Lakota author Marshall (The Lakota Way; Winter of the Holy Iron) draws on a rich Native American oral tradition to carefully and lovingly "unfold the life of Crazy Horse as a storyteller would." The result is a vivid, haunting biography that acknowledges the author's boyhood hero worship but avoids hagiography. Raised on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, Marshall recalls hearing his grandfather share stories of battles fought 75 years earlier against "Long Hair," the Lakota name for Gen. George Custer, vanquished at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Marshall reveals Crazy Horse as loyal son, spurned lover, instinctive warrior, doting father, compassionate hunter and natural leader, one who "reluctantly answered the call to serve" and "literally had no desire to talk about his exploits." Marshall sidesteps blood-and-guts combat scenes, emphasizing the larger picture of the Indians' defiant, doomed struggle, as settlers and miners flooded the Great Plains of the Sioux tribes between the 1840s and the 1880s. This book adds spirit and life to our understanding of this enigmatic and important man. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Not just well researched but intuitively accurate: Marshall is a Lakota Indian. With a four-city author tour. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The legendary Lakota leader receives due honor in this searching biography. "Crazy Horse has been my hero since I was a boy," writes Lakota author Marshall (The Lakota Way, 2001). He is not alone; as the author observes, Crazy Horse's very "name floats in the consciousness of most Americans, along with the names of indigenous leaders and heroes from other tribes." By Marshall's account, Crazy Horse might have been surprised at his renown, which he seems never to have courted; he was of average height, perhaps average strength, and he did not participate in ritual bragging about his accomplishments. "As a matter of fact," Marshall adds, "Crazy Horse barely talked about his exploits to his immediate family." Yet Crazy Horse was always the right man at the right time, providing leadership and courage, appearing on the battlefield just when he was needed most. And he was often wanted; as Marshall writes, in one of the most effective stretches from the 19th century to the collapse of the Twin Towers, Crazy Horse's nation was most certainly under attack, and "we are not immune to attack no matter how strong or invincible we think we are. Within the shadows of that lesson is one equally important: we must be prepared to defend ourselves." Readers seeking war whoops may be a little disappointed by Marshall's reticent treatment of the many battles in which Crazy Horse fought, especially the one that secured his fame, the Little Bighorn. But those seeking a circumstantial, from-the-native's-viewpoint account of Crazy Horse's life and death will be intrigued by Marshall's respectful use of oral history, drawn from relatives who were very old when he was very young, and who filled his imaginationwith stories about the great warrior. As myths go, he hints, these are likely the most accurate-certainly more so than the " 'conqueror of Custer' version, the purveyor of violence ready to fight at the drop of a 'war' bonnet," or the many Hollywood Crazy Horses ("an eclectic bunch"), or the hagiographic Crazy Horse of Larry McMurtry and other recent biographers. A fine and necessary work.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
18 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Journey Of Crazy Horse

A Lakaota History Of His Life, His Times, And His People
By Joseph M. Marshall

Viking Adult

ISBN: 0-670-03355-3

Chapter One

His mother brought him forth in the place that symbolized the Lakota world, the place called the heart of all things, the Black Hills. Not new to the pain of giving birth, she silently endured it with the gentle help of She Who Takes the Babies, the midwife, an old woman whose hands were the first guidance, the first welcome felt by many newborns. Other women were in attendance in the tipi pitched slightly apart from the small encampment, a circle of knowledge and support watching the tiny head with coal black hair emerge into a Lakota world. Later they clucked and cooed and exchanged smiles of satisfaction as he opened his eyes, so deep brown they appeared black.

The circle of women worked quietly, laying the mother down and cleaning off the new life. One of them poked her head out the tipi door to announce to waiting girls that it was a boy, a future provider and protector of his people. So the word was carried to his father waiting nervously in his family's home, as all expectant fathers do.

As he heard the news he loaded the bowl of his pipe with tobacco and offered it to Mother Earth, Father Sky, to the Powers of the West, North, East, and South, and finally to the Grandfather, and then quietly smoked his thanksgiving for this new life, this new Lakota come into the world. The new life suckled his mother's breasts eagerly, anxious to begin his journey. The women in attendance were pleased. One of them sang a soft lullaby, a soft rhythmic chant like a slow heartbeat. Soon his mother helped with the chant, her soft voice joining in, her eyes filled with love as she held her new son close, feeling his moist skin against her bare breasts even as one of the women wrapped a large warm robe around them both, binding mother and son together. By 1840 much of the northern Plains of North America was unmistakably a Lakota world. From the Muddy River (Missouri) on the east, the Running Water (Niobrara) and the Shell (North Platte) rivers on the south, the Shining Mountains (Big Horns) to the west, and the northern border stretching from the Elk River (Yellowstone) east to the Knife flowing into the Muddy, the size of this far-flung world was in keeping with the population of the nation and the determination to protect it. Within this world the people lived by hunting. The people moved camp several times each year to flow with the change of seasons and the movement of the animals they depended on for food and clothing. The tatanka, the bison, was the main source of livelihood. The horse had arrived several generations before and was by then a very important part of Lakota life. It was the other reason the territory was so large. In this Lakota world the life path for sons flowed in two directions that were closely tied to each other, like twin trunks of the same tree. Every boy grew up to be a hunter and a warrior, a provider and a protector. Every boy born was a promise that the nation would remain strong. Families prayed that each boy would grow up strong of body and mind, that he would heed the lessons of his fathers and grandfathers and honor the path already laid out for him. This was the way. So this new life come into the Lakota world, into the small community encamped in the place known as the heart of all things, was welcomed as new hope, and the people prayed that he would grow straight and strong. The next morning the circle of women who had attended the birth escorted the mother and her new son from the woman's tipi into the main encampment, to the door of her own lodge, singing songs as they went. People watched and some joined the procession and gifts of welcome were laid next to the door. Among the gifts was a tiny bow with its own tiny arrow, an unmistakable sign of the journey that lay ahead for the new life. Bison robes covered the floor of the lodge and painted rawhide containers-some square and some rectangular-were neatly arranged against the interior wall. A small girl, no more than three, waited anxiously, as did the man of the lodge. The woman entered and walked around the center fire pit and then lowered herself and her bundle carefully into a willow chair set next to the stone altar at the back of the room. Rattling Blanket Woman opened the bundle to show her daughter the thatch of wavy black hair atop her new brother's head, and then lifted the baby into his father's arms. He was a modest man, a healer. Crazy Horse was his name, the same as his father's and which was passed down to him. They were a humble family, part of the Hunkpatila band1 of the Oglala Lakota. She was Mniconju Lakota. Their children thus carried the blood of the Oglala and Mniconju Lakota people. The little one, this new life, this new hope for the people, squirmed in his arms and Crazy Horse felt the promise of goodness and strength within the tiny bundle he held. So the father sang a welcoming song for his new son. Thus the journey began.


Excerpted from The Journey Of Crazy Horse by Joseph M. Marshall Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author

Joseph M. Marshall III, historian, educator, and storyteller, is the author of many books, including The Journey of Crazy Horse and The Lakota Way: Stories and Lessons for the Living, which was a finalist for the PEN Center USA West Award in 2002. He was raised on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation and his first language is Lakota. Marshall is a recipient of the Wyoming Humanities Award, and he has been a technical advistor and actor in television movies, including Return to Lonesome Dove. He makes his home on the Northern Plains.

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The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History by Joseph M. Marshall III is a story of the history of Crazy Horse with an influence by a true Sicangu Lakota. He gives his insight to this great Native American warrior, while managing to tie it into his own life. He uses stories that he was told growing up and facts that he found in order to make this book historically accurate. The audience reads of battles that were fought, how the white people influenced them, or not, and the values the Native Americans have as a family member and a warrior. The best thing about this book is the imagery that it provides. Marshall does a great job of explaining the scenery and circumstances. Looking at the life of Crazy Horse through the eyes of a Sicangu Lakota has definitely given me a different prospective. I tend to always read about events/people from a white person point of view. The best thing I got from this book was a view into how the Native Americans view one of their great warriors, Crazy Horse. One of the best things about the book was when Marshall wrote of how Crazy Horse, Light Hair at the time, learned to shoot an arrow. He learned how to shoot by attempting to shoot grass hoppers. Marshall makes it sound like that's how a lot of great warriors were taught to shoot. How intense. The only negative thing about the book is in the beginning of the book, in the first couple of chapters you don't learn much about Crazy Horse's life. In the beginning it¿s more of an introduction to the Native American way of life rather than the life of Crazy Horse. Eventually you start to hear some stories about a boy named Light Hair, who later becomes Crazy Horse. Overall this was a good book. The interesting hooks and inside story of a great Native American warrior was very interesting and thought provoking. If you don¿t have a real big interest in Native Americans or the Nebraska/South Dakota lifestyle, I wouldn¿t recommend this book. For people who would like to read further about other warriors and their lifestyles, check out these great books by the same author: Walking With Grandfather: The Wisdom of Lakota Elders, The Day the World Ended at Little Bighorn: A Lakota History and Keep Going: The Art of Perseverance. And a couple of other great authors, Crazy Horse (second edition): The Strange Man of the Oglalas (50th Anniversary Edition) by Mari Sandoz, daughter of ¿Old Jules,¿ and Standing in the Light: A Lakota Way of Seeing (American Indian Lives Series) by Severt Young Bear.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is based on oral history of Crazy Horse and the Lakota people. The author himself is a descendent of the children and grandchildren of people who lived at the same time as Crazy Horse, so right away you know you¿re getting a different side to the story of the Old West. It was interesting to learn about how the actions of white Americans, (the government and the settlers), affected the everyday life of the Lakota people, changing their grazing lands, chasing them from their territory, etc. It was a harsh reality and the details of the battle scenes were brutal. I especially liked learning about Crazy Horse as a person. In history books, he's mostly pictured as a 'savage,' someone who just fought a lot of battles and scalped people. This book describes him as a quiet, thinking man who was not out for glory, but fought fiercely only to protect his people and their way of life. Also, the Lakota tradition is shown more in depth here by describing how the people related to one another like members of a large family. They lived and worked together, they shared what they hunted, and the entire community took responsibility for raising the children. There is not a lot of dialogue in the book, and I think that is because the Lakota people mainly showed their thoughts and feelings through action. They didn¿t waste their words on a lot of conversation. When they spoke, it was to tell the younger generations the history of their people. This is a good book to read if you want to learn both sides of American history.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I truely enjoyed this book. It was a very culturally significant study for me and a wonderful insight into the lives of the Lakota peoples. I have been taught the 'white' version of our western heritage/history but this has helped give me new insight and to know there are two sides to every story.
Jim67 More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book very much. I think if you like this type of history well worth the read.
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