Indian Yell:The Heart of an American Insurgency

by Michael Blake, Northland Publishing, Flagstaff, Ariz., 2006, $21.95.

 Coming 36 years after the publication of Dee Brown’s monumental Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Michael Blake’s Indian Yell offers another soulful, mournful look at America’s attempt to handle the “Indian problem” of the late 1800s. Blake is known more for Western fiction; he wrote the novel and won an Academy Award for his screenplay adaptation of Dances With Wolves. Likewise, the late Dee Brown turned out memorable fiction, although Bury My Heart certainly overshadowed it.

Indian Yell probably won’t make Western fans forget Dances With Wolves or Brown’s masterpieces, but it is a lively and informative read, and Blake reveals much insight into Indian–white relations. Besides, Blake cut his teeth on “underground” and “activism” journalism, so the tragedy of the Indian wars is perfect for his style. Indian Yell opens with the Grattan incident near Fort Laramie that sparked the conflagration between Sioux and whites that would end at Wounded Knee. Between those bookends, Blake briefly chronicles other campaigns and “insurrections”—Sand Creek, Washita, Beecher’s Island and Little Bighorn, among others. This isn’t a milestone history of the Indian wars. Several incidents, such as the Modoc War and Nez Perce flight, are missing. Nor is it a bashing of all things white. Blake has a keen understanding of the 19th-century military, and he’s quite kind to George Custer.

 

Originally published in the June 2007 issue of Wild West. To subscribe, click here