A GOOD YEAR TO DIE: The Story of the Great Sioux War by

A GOOD YEAR TO DIE: The Story of the Great Sioux War

By
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KIRKUS REVIEW

This overview of a tragic war soon reveals itself to be an extremely biased account of a pivotal time in US-Indian relations. Old West historian Robinson begins with the events leading up to the final war between the Lakota and the US Army in 1876-77, a war mostly remembered for the Army's humiliating defeats, such as Custer's Last Stand at Little Bighorn. As Robinson points out, the campaign left the Lakota and northern Cheyenne nations decimated and confined to government-controlled reservations. The misconception of history is not difficult to understand: Whites have tended to exaggerate their losses at the hands of Indians in order to justify taking Indian land. Robinson's agenda is a little more complex: He seems to want to glorify whites rather than set the record straight. He uses the testimonies of almost exclusively white witnesses, writing that Indians' accounts are not reliable because ""their fear of government reprisal, while unfounded, was very real."" (Perhaps Robinson doesn't consider over 200 years of hostilities and broken treaties to constitute a foundation for fear.) The author often presents the statements of whites with little commentary, suggesting that they are accurate (even calling one derogatory comment about Indians a ""candid appraisal""). When he does offer comment, it is to condone shocking utterances, such as Gen. William T. Sherman's remark, ""The more I see of these Indians the more convinced I am that they all have to be killed or be maintained as a species of paupers""--which Robinson kindly terms ""the most extreme expression of a profound dilemma."" And while Indians attack settlers with ""appalling ferocity,"" no comment is offered as the US Army attacks village after village filled with Indian women and children. An outrageous whitewash.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1995
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Random