Lakota Noon, edited by Gregory F. Michno, Mountain Press, Missoula, Mont., $36.
The Battle of the Little Bighorn is one of the most extensively covered fights on American soil, but many books about Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer’s defeat at the Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876, do not adequately reflect the views of the Indians. In Lakota Noon, however, Gregory F. Michno focuses on 58 Indian participants, some interviewed as early as the 1870s, others as late as the 1940s. Each of the book’s chapters includes a map showing where individual Indians were located during the fight, and the Indians interviewed are described, identified by tribe, parentage, place and date of birth.
Although the Indians who were camped along the Little Bighorn River–the Brulé, Oglala, Minneconjou and Hunkpapa Sioux, as well as Cheyennes and Arapahos–killed 210 troopers in Custer’s immediate command while suffering relatively few casualties, none of them knew until afterward that they had been fighting Custer. That victory was also their last gasp. By September 1877, all the bands except Sitting Bull’s, which fled to Canada, had given up. Years later, reunions were held at the battle site, allowing the survivors of Major Marcus A. Reno’s and Captain Frederick A. Benteen’s detachments to meet their former adversaries. The last white veteran of the battle died in 1950. Beard, last of the Indian warriors, died in 1955 at age 95. He was 17 when he fought the 7th Cavalry in 1876.
A fascinating book with an unusual but very effective presentation, Lakota Noon is highly recommended.
Calvin G. Bass