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Perhaps no Indian leader of the mid-nineteenth century was as well known in his time as the great Lakota Sioux Red Cloud. Although his fame later was eclipsed by that of the legendary heroes who crushed Custer's Seventh Cavalry at the Battle of the Little Bighorn-Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse-Red Cloud's active leadership of his people, and his representation of the Sioux in vital negotiations with the U.S. government, survived the demise of the other leaders by many years.
Red Cloud was not born to leadership. He earned it. In his early years he gained a reputation for fierceness as a warrior and as a tactician against both whites and other Indian tribes. And in his middle years, his leadership against the U.S. Army in the Powder River country, his forcing the closure of the Bozeman Trail, and his strong pressure to negotiate the favorable outcome of the Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868 made him the preeminent chief among the Sioux.
In his later years, Red Cloud was an intermediary for his people in their dealings with the U.S. government. Although his motives at times were questioned, he steadfastly resisted encroachments on Sioux land during the reservation period, and he consistently protested the pressure by market oriented whites to impose an agrarian economy on a people who had never farmed. Red Cloud's passionate belief in the values of his culture prevented him from acting as a culture broker; nevertheless, he remained an important figure of the Gilded Age.
Imbued with the new social and environmental historiography, this modern biography by Robert W. Larson is a valuable contribution to Sioux history and to our understanding of Indian-white relationships in the nineteenth century as well as political aspects of the Indian-white dialogue.
About the Author
Robert W. Larson is retired as Professor of History at the University of Northern Colorado, Greeley. He is the author of numerous articles and books, including Red Cloud: Warrior-Statesman of the Lakota Sioux. The Denver Posse of Westerners honored him in 2006 with its Fred A. Rosenstock Award for Lifetime Achievement in Western History.