On the Trail of the Cheyenne Exodus
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A noteworthy mix of Native American history and memoir. In the aftermath of Little Big Horn, many Northern Cheyenne Indians were removed from Montana to Oklahoma, far from their ancestral territory. Beset by illness, famine, poverty, and corruption on the part of the government officials who oversaw their reservation, a band of 300 Cheyenne under Chief Dull Knife fled the reservation in 1878 and journeyed more than a thousand miles across the high plains to return to Montana; the federal government declared them to be renegades and sent thousands of soldiers to return them. In 1995 Boye, a professor of English at Lydon State College in Vermont, joined three of Dull Knife’s descendants in a journey retracing the Cheyenne’s difficult road home. Boye is forthright about his reasons for undertaking the trip; when his brother remarks, “There’s got to be an easier way to get a feel for history than walking a thousand miles,” Boye admits, “Even with the best of luck, I have less than half my life remaining, and I am dulled into believing that the safety of modern life will insulate me from the enormity of time.” Boye and his Cheyenne friends are anything but insulated in their arduous trek; weather-beaten and exhausted, they nonetheless attract (mostly) friendly attention wherever they travel. Boye has a light, winning style, even when he’s writing about matters of the utmost seriousness; he introduces and explains complex points of history and anthropology with admirable ease. His prose often attains moments of real beauty, too, as when he writes, “All of us are haunted by ghosts, and to try and keep still the fear of their haunting is an endless task. Perhaps our lives are nothing more than a series of exorcisms, a series of delicate dances with the specters of the past.” A true contribution to the literature of the Northern Cheyenne past.

Pub Date: Aug. 30th, 1999
ISBN: 0-8032-1294-1
Page count: 347pp
Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1999