MOUNTAIN MAN, INDIAN CHIEF: The Life and Adventures of James P. Beckwourth by Betty--Ed. Shepard

MOUNTAIN MAN, INDIAN CHIEF: The Life and Adventures of James P. Beckwourth

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What began as a joke turned into a fifteen-year sojourn during which Jim Beckwourth, mountaineering son of a white father and Negro mother, lived among the Crow Indians and improved his status from adopted son to Head Chief. A known tall-tale teller, he dictated his story to a newspaperman in 1855, nearly twenty years after he had left the Crows. Undoubtedly, his exploits (""I ran that day for ninety-five miles"") had enlarged by then, and as such they are often amusing, occasionally shocking, but always vivid. In an authoritative introduction, the editor warns that some of these whoppers are suspect, others may have happened to other people, but virtually all have some factual basis. Burt's Jim Beckwourth, Crow Chief is out of print for good reasons. Felton's Jim Beckwourth, Negro Mountain Man (1966), containing numerous quotations from the original, nevertheless talks about the man, takes on an almost didactic and defensive aspect, and reveals far less about Indian life; also, as the title indicates, the author casts him as a Negro hero whereas Beckwourth-to-Bonner via Shepard mentions nothing of negritude. He left the tribe, unable to endure the mounting slaughters, yet chose to die among them. The later, less spectacular years are skimmed in an epilogue that does not diminish his statute; you won't have to buffalo anyone into reading it.

Pub Date: Oct. 23rd, 1968
Publisher: Harcourt, Brace & World