PAPER MEDICINE MAN: John Gregory Bourke and His American West by Joseph C. Porter

PAPER MEDICINE MAN: John Gregory Bourke and His American West

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Although almost extinct nowadays, the soldier-scientist was once a venerable figure in the US Army; men such as Bourke, the subject of this captivating biography, played a significant role in the opening of the American West through their work as explorers, cartographers, folklorists, and ethnologists. Bourke first set foot on Indian land in 1869--the same year he graduated from West Point--as part the federal government's effort to quell the Apaches. For seven years he lived by sword and gun, participating in several major Indian wars (described here in sometimes grisly detail). But by the end of the Sioux War in 1876, Bourke's attitude towards Indians had begun to change from enmity to admiration. He became an ardent student of Indian life and an advocate of Indian rights. For the next decade, he lived as a sort of rough-hewn anthropologist among different tribes, compiled an Apache vocabulary of 2500 words, witnessed the Sioux Sun Dance and the Hopi Snake Dance, and authored several books, including The Medicine Men of the Apache and Scatalogic Rites of All Nations (printed in 1913 in a German edition with a preface by Sigmund Freud). Bourke's tireless work on behalf of Indian rights seriously damaged his military career. It also makes him something of a hero in modern eyes, and elevates this readable, richly detailed biography into must-read status for students of the American West.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1986
Publisher: Univ. of Oklahoma Press