BRIGHT EYES: The Story of Susette La Flesche, an Omaha Indian by Dorothy Clark Wilson

BRIGHT EYES: The Story of Susette La Flesche, an Omaha Indian

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The straightforward and moving biography of an unusual Indian woman (actually both her parents were half-white, but both chose to live as Indians) who was born in 1854, at the beginning of that tragic quarter century that saw the buffalo wiped out and the Plains Indians slaughtered, pauperized and removed; who lived her whole life caught between two cultures -- one inexorably advancing, the other beautiful but doomed -- and absorbed some of the best of both; and who fought with the weapons of both cultures (East Coast education, Indian eloquence) against the destruction by government policy of her Omaha people and their brother tribe, the Poncas. Dorothy Clarke Wilson's life of ""Bright Eyes"" is written in the form of a historical romance, and it is just that popular and accessible, but it is also responsible, researched history. It is a good unscholarly yet ""teaching"" account of the rich world of symbols and rituals that wove Omaha society into nature; of the atrocities committed against yet another Indian tribe by the white government's land hunger, racism and indifference; and of the legalities of a crucial court decision (1879) that an Indian was, after all, a ""person"" -- a decision brought about by the lecture tours and writing of ""Bright Eyes,"" a Ponca Chief, and white advocates. Here are unanalyzed but interesting glimpses of the conflict between Indians who preferred to adapt and survive and those who clung to the old, dying ways; and of a 19th-century ""movement"" -- a Boston foaming with indignant liberals and fashionable muses. The author writes with clarity and sympathy and generally brings off her tricky mixture of history and romance, involvement and entertainment for a longstanding readership.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1974
Publisher: McGraw-Hill