Book Review: The Dull Knifes of Pine Ridge: A Lakota Odyssey (Joe Starita): WW

8/12/2001 • Native American Indian Chiefs, Wild West Reviews

Family histories through three or four generations are often told in works of fiction, and they are sometimes told in nonfictionworks, especially in books about prominent American families such as the Lees, the Pattons and the Rockefellers. Theapproach can be very effective in the hands of a good writer, as Joe Starita demonstrates in The Dull Knifes of Pine Ridge:A Lakota Odyssey, which chronicles an American Indian family through a century plus, and in so doing, provides insight intoLakota (Sioux) history and culture. Chief Dull Knife, a Northern Cheyenne who was born about 1810 and died in 1883, isone of the better-known 19th-century Indians. Like Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, Chief Dull Knife is best known for an epicflight. In September 1878, he and another Cheyenne chief, Little Wolf, left their assigned quarters with the Southern Cheyennein Indian Territory (Oklahoma) and made a 1,500-mile flight northward, back to their homeland. The two chiefs eventually splitup; Chief Dull Knife surrendered at Fort Robinson in the Dakotas and then broke out in January 1879 to avoid being sentback south. He almost died that winter, but before the year was out he would be given permission to live in Montana’sRosebud Valley (where he was born) and would rejoin Little Wolf. George Dull Knife, son of Chief Dull Knife and the last ofhis family to be born in a tepee (1875), spent most of his life on the Pine Ridge Reservation (S.D.) of the Lakota. George DullKnife was 15 in December 1890 when he heard gunfire to the west, but his mother would not let him leave home. A few dayslater, though, he rode out with a friend and saw the bodies of Chief Big Foot and his followers at Wounded Knee Creek.George Dull Knife later toured with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West show in the United States and Europe. George’s son Guy Dull Knife,born at Pine Ridge in 1899, also went to Europe, but to fight in World War I. Dull Knifes would also fight in World War II,Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf. Lakota artist Guy Dull Knife, Jr., who was the first in his family to be born in a hospital(1947), walked point in Vietnam. Starita spent much of 21?2 years talking with the Guy Dull Knifes, senior and junior, andtheir friends, and examining family and archival documents. The end result is a moving book in which Chief Dull Knife and hisdescendants all shine.