The Encyclopedia of Native American Biography: Six Hundred Life Stories of Important People, From Powhatan to Wilma Mankiller, by Bruce E. Johansen and Donald A. Grinde, Jr., Da Capo Press, New York, 1998, $22.50 paper.
Among the 600 life stories presented here are, of course, those of Sitting Bull, Red Cloud, Geronimo, Black Elk, Chief Joseph, Tecumseh and the handful of other American Indians whose names are household words. “Choosing the other 90 percent of the entries involved judgment calls and the diligent mining of many obscure sources,” authors Bruce Johansen and Donald Grinde write in their introduction to this fine 463-page reference book. “We chose to include non-Indians who have been important to Native Americans, one way or another.” Some readers might wonder why a particular individual–such as Joseph James “Jocko” Clark (1893-1971), part Cherokee, who rose to commander of the Seventh Fleet–was left out, but most readers will simply marvel at the amount of well-researched information about prominent and lesser-known Indian chiefs, explorers, artists, writers, athletes, scientists, etc., that is packed in one volume. Admirers of what Crazy Horse and other Sioux leaders did at the Little Bighorn might want to check out the “Little Turtle (Michikinikwa)” entry as a change of pace. On November 4, 1791, in what is now Ohio, the Miami-Mohican chief led a coalition of 1,200 Indians to victory over 1,400 soldiers under General Arthur St. Clair. Little Turtle’s force, according to the entry, “killed roughly nine hundred of St. Clair’s men, the largest single battlefield victory by an American Indian force in history.”