Winner of the Labriola Center American Indian National Book Award. One of the American West’s bloodiest—and least-known—massacres is searingly re-created in this generation-spanning history of native-white intermarriage. At dawn on January 23, 1870, four hundred men of the Second U.S. Cavalry attacked and butchered a Piegan camp near the Marias River in Montana in one of the worst slaughters of Indians by American military forces in U.S. ...
Winner of the Labriola Center American Indian National Book Award.
One of the American West’s bloodiest—and least-known—massacres is searingly re-created in this generation-spanning history of native-white intermarriage.
At dawn on January 23, 1870, four hundred men of the Second U.S. Cavalry attacked and butchered a Piegan camp near the Marias River in Montana in one of the worst slaughters of Indians by American military forces in U.S. history. Coming to avenge the murder of their father—a former fur-trader named Malcolm Clarke who had been killed four months earlier by their Piegan mother’s cousin—Clarke ’s own two sons joined the cavalry in a slaughter of many of their own relatives. In this groundbreaking work of American history, Andrew R. Graybill places the Marias Massacre within a larger, three-generation saga of the Clarke family, particularly illuminating the complex history of native-white intermarriage in the American Northwest.
“Graybill…has written a gripping Western saga. But more, he has plumbed the depth of racial and generational conflict by means of previously unexamined archival material and interviews with descendants on both sides…. Western history buffs and general readers alike cannot fail to profit from a careful reading of its pages—dramatic, heartbreaking.”
Robert B. Mitchell - The Washington Post
“[Graybill’s] story of how one family walked “in two worlds—one red, the other white”—is, in the end, fascinating and often moving.”
Mick Gidley - Times Literary Supplement
“As an account, Graybill’s book could not be bettered… The Red and the White—complete with a Clarke family tree, maps, extensive notes, an up-to-date bibliography and a helpful index—constitutes an engrossing and important contribution to our understanding of the very mixed and complex past of the American West.”
The family story told here begins in the mid-1840s with the marriage of Montana fur trader Malcolm Clarke to a Piegan Blackfeet woman named Coth-co-co-na. After Clarke was murdered in 1867, the Second U.S. Cavalry retaliated against the Piegan Blackfeet through the Marias Massacre of 1870. Two of Clarke's sons, caught between the white and Indian worlds, joined in the atrocity against their Native kinsmen. Graybill (history, Southern Methodist Univ.; Policing the Great Plains: Rangers, Mounties, and the North American Frontier, 1875–1910) shows how subsequent generations of the Clarke family negotiated their mixed heritage in both Euro-American and Piegan society and distinguished themselves in both. Their experiences provide fascinating insights into race relations on the evolving frontier. VERDICT Graybill's book is highly recommended for all readers interested in the 19th-century West. Readers should also consider Claudio Saunt's Black, White, and Indian: Race and the Unmaking of an American Family, which explores the multiethnic Creek Indian Grayson family over five generations, ranging from the early 1800s in Alabama to the early 1900s in Oklahoma.—John R. Burch, Campbellsville Univ. Lib., KY
From the birth of the fur trade through the establishment of reservations and boarding schools to the present day, a touching portrait of race relations on the frontier. Graybill (History and Southwest Studies/Southern Methodist Univ.; Policing the Great Plains: Rangers, Mounties, and the North American Frontier, 1875–1910, 2007, etc.) traces the history of relationships between Indians and whites by telling the story of Malcolm Clarke, a failed military man and fur-trading pioneer, and his Piegan Blackfoot wife, Coth-co-co-na, as well as three generations of their descendants. Beginning with the introduction of horses in the 1730s, the Blackfeet experienced European colonization as an unremitting avalanche of cultural change, which drove them from their position as the undisputed masters of the Northern Plains to a small, economically depressed reservation. Thomas Jefferson saw intermarriage as "the key to peaceful frontier absorption as well as the eventual assimilation of Indians into mainstream Anglo-American society," but the reality was rarely so clean-cut. Utilizing primary sources at the Montana Historical Society and interviews with the Clarkes' living relatives, Graybill uncovers a forgotten history culminating in the Marias Massacre, an epochal event for the Blackfeet but so obscure today that no marker commemorates its location. Evocative details and a close attention to the arc of its subjects' lives lend Graybill's narrative emotional heft. The family's descendants include the remarkable Helen Clarke, a successful Broadway actor and Montana's first female elected official, and John Clarke, deafened in infancy by scarlet fever, who became a world-renowned sculptor. Despite their fame, they never achieved financial stability or full social acceptance; the received knowledge was that "peoples of mixed ancestry...fomented dissension by manipulating their supposedly slow-witted relatives of pure [Indian] blood." An entertaining and insightful exposition of an unjustly ignored facet of the American social fabric.
“Brings to life a remarkable family that lived at the intersection of worlds, where the fur trade and intermarriage blurred the distinction between American Indians and white Americans.”
Robert B. Mitchell - Washington Post
“Fascinating and often moving.”
“A gripping Western saga. . . . Western history buffs and general readers alike cannot fail to profit from a careful reading of its pages—dramatic, heartbreaking.”
“A masterful treatment of a much-neglected aspect of American history.
. . . A must-read”
Stuart Rosebrook - True West
“Transforms a tragic, 19th-century story of heartbreak and revenge on the Rocky Mountain frontier, into a dynamic, multi-generational history. . . . . Shakespearean in its tragedy and Biblical in its parable of how the Indian tribes have endured a diaspora of such magnitude. . . . [The] Clarke family chose a purposeful, meaningful life, offering up, for all of us, a shining example of the power and strength of the human spirit.”