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A wonderful history of the West by the author of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. The Westerners doesn't show much original research but it has a strong point of view, clear-eyed verve and a kind of Homeric love for its vast sunburnt subject. It is a journey with the human spirit, from Coronado's greedy search for the Seven Cities of Cibola (1542) to the rough-riding mock-heroic superman Teddy Roosevelt and his ridiculous charge up San Juan Hill. Along the way the story seldom allows the Indians to fall out of sight, though only Sitting Bull receives a full dress portrait. Many of the whites are lovely men: Lewis and Clark, seriously mapping their paths through a land of sheer fantasy while searching for the Western Sea, and Jedediah Smith, the furtrapping mountain man who disappeared in a Comanche ambush. Some are monsters, and Brigham Young, the great polygamist, speaks with a forked tongue like an angelic goblin. The story of the painter George Catlin, who gave up wife and family in Pennsylvania to become the first artist of the Plains Indians, is less well-known than that of Custer and his wife or of Charles Goodnight, ""the father of the cowboys,"" or of Parkman on the Oregon Trail. Brown's message, as ever, is that we raped the Indians--but he tells us so much more, so very much more about representative American hopes and failures.

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1974
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston