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Crazy Horse: A Lakota Life

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Crazy Horse: A Lakota Life
By Kingsley M. Bray. (University of Oklahoma Press, Norman: 2008. Pg. xviii, 510. B & W Photos, Maps.) ISBN: 978-0-8061-3986-9.

Reviewed by Auggie Moore - October 24, 2008

Crazy Horse: A Lakota Life is the definitive biography of the Lakota Sioux leader Crazy Horse (1840-1877), written by Kingsley M. Bray, an independent scholar. Within the pages of this book, Bray separates the fact from the fiction surrounding this great warrior and presents an up-to-date and comprehensive account of Crazy Horse's life. Over the course of this detailed survey, Bray examines how Crazy Horse, a member of the Oglala tribe, influenced Lakota actions and interactions with other native tribes and against the Western imperialist that threatened the Lakota way of life.

Volume 254 in The Civilization of the American Indian series, Crazy Horse: A Lakota Life, firmly fixes Crazy Horse's place in both American and American-Indian history. In writing this account Bray consulted a wide variety of sources, including extant interviews with contemporaries of Crazy Horse, U.S. Army records, interviews with modern day informants, government records, and other available historical resources. This research, combined with extensive endnotes, will satisfy any historian or student studying American Indian history or culture.

This biography is divided into six main parts and covers Crazy Horse's life from early childhood and his mystic awakening as well as his rise as a Lakota warrior and leader. Bray examines the forces that shaped Crazy Horse's life and explains the actions that Crazy Horse took, both in terms of intertribal relationships and as a war chieftain, in regards to the historic record and what is know about Crazy Horse's mind set and world view. Within the pages of this book, Bray also chronicles the numerous battles and skirmishes that took place between the U.S. Army and civilians who had immigrated into the Black Hills area with forces loyal to Crazy Horse. The Battle of the Little Bighorn is of course, covered in detail. The murder of Crazy Horse, and what his death meant for his people and the American aggressors, is also covered in detail. In the process of chronicling Crazy Horse's life, Bray also provides keen insights and details about Lakota life and culture during this pivotal period in Lakota history.

In Crazy Horse: A Lakota Life, Bray has crafted a scholarly and adroit account of this influential and often understood figure. Despite living such a short span, Crazy Horse had a tremendous impact on both American Indian psyche and the history of the American West, and his legacy still resonates today. Although perhaps a bit verbose for the general reader, this book is essential reading for anyone with a serious interest in American Indian history or culture, the history of the American West, or in the life story of an enigmatic and complicated man who rose to become one of the greatest leaders of his time.

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