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THE DULL KNIFES OF PINE RIDGE by Joe Starita

THE DULL KNIFES OF PINE RIDGE

A Lakota Odyssey

By Joe Starita

Pub Date: April 19th, 1995
ISBN: 0-399-14010-7
Publisher: Putnam

 An entertaining and affecting story of a remarkable American Indian family. Starita, a longtime reporter for the Miami Herald, combines oral history with his own reporting and research to chronicle one Lakota family's history from the early 19th century to the present. The Dull Knifes are warriors. At the center of this book is Guy Dull Knife Sr. Now 96 and in a nursing home, he remembers the horrors of being mustard-gassed during WW I and then returning home, having fought for a country that didn't consider him a citizen. Starita also tells of the first Dull Knife, who fought with Crazy Horse against the US Army in the 1860s. Signing the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, the chief promised never to `` `sharpen his knife' against the whites,'' a promise he kept, refusing to join the fight at Little Bighorn. Sent to Indian Territory (current-day Oklahoma), his people found conditions unbearable, and in 1878, harassed by the US Army, Dull Knife led his people on a desperate 600-mile trek back to their homelands in the mountains of Wyoming and Montana. His son, George Dull Knife, after witnessing the carnage of Wounded Knee in 1890, went on to tour with Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show. Guy Jr. played cowboys and Indians in the 1950s--when even Indian boys wanted to be John Wayne. He was drafted in 1968 and fought for real in Vietnam. Like many Indians, he was forced to walk ``point'' at the head of columns; the highly vulnerable position was assigned to Native Americans because of their supposed skill as hunters and trackers. Still struggling with his war experience 25 years later, Guy is now an accomplished artist. Both Guy Sr. and Jr. participated in the siege of Wounded Knee in 1973, a 71-day crisis after which Indians won the right to reopen the treaty of 1868. (For a history of another Lakota family, see Leonard Crow Dog's Crow Dog, p. 285.) Starita tells the Dull Knifes' story in remarkable and affectionate detail, maintaining a balance between the history of a people and the history of a family. (Book-of-the-Month Club/Quality Paperback Book Club/History Book Club selections)