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Killing Custer: The Battle of the Little Bighorn and the Fate of the Plains Indians Hardcover – October, 1994

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Novelist Welch (Fools Crow) and documentary filmmaker Stekler collaborate on what is to date the best reconstruction of the Little Big Horn campaign from a Native American perspective. Eschewing melodrama and making sophisticated use of oral testimony and recently developed archeological evidence, the authors present an inevitable clash of cultures brought about by white greed. They describe the success of Sitting Bull's call in 1876 for one last big hunt and one last big fight before the Plains Indians' way of life was to disappear forever, along with the buffalo that sustained it. Welch and Stekler highlight the initial overconfidence and ultimate panic of Custer's troops, whose commander made every possible mistake on June 25 against enemies with nothing more to lose. A major literary and historical contribution to a complex subject. Illustrations. Author tour.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Novelist/poet Welch has produced a compelling history of the Indian wars of the northern Plains with insights from his firsthand experience with tribal life.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; First Edition edition (October 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039303657X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393036572
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,405,606 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Chris Wilson on January 29, 2010
Format: Paperback
Let's get something straight. Nothing new can possibly be written on Custer and the Battle of Little Big Horn. Every shadow, contemporary account and hidden ridge have been combed over. The truth is there and the mystery is solved. So it was with great surprise while reading James Welch's "Killing Custer" I discovered a few interesting perspectives not yet studied, and what a refreshing contemplation this is.

Welch, an accomplished Native American writer of the Blackfeet tribe in Montana, was initially a reluctant participant in the superb documentary American Experience: Last Stand at Little Big Horn directed by Paul Stekler. He became a dedicated activist in the film's cause and this book is a result of his own spiritual examination. The documentary, first broadcast on PBS in 1992, recounts the battle and aggressive eastern encroachment through the eyes of Native American descendants of the Lakota, Cheyenne and Crow. The film was an earnest attempt to emphasize stories of the people attacked by Custer and the 7th Cavalry, who essentially made a last stand for their culture.

Welch accurately notes how most Native Americans roll their eyes at America's obsession with this battle. He cuts through the mythology and tells his version without military glorification. As Welch states, Custer's plan was to kill Indians, and when he rode down into that valley in 1876, he planned to kill as many as quickly as possible. Welch's version of the battle is largely inspired by Native American accounts handed down through generations.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Catharine T. Kolb on April 19, 2008
Format: Paperback
James Welch, a Blackfeet/Gros Ventre novelist, turns his hand to history after writing a screen play on the same topic, The Battle of the Little Bighorn.
The book is very smoothly written and easy to read and follow; there are maps and photos to augment the text.
For anyone interested in the events which led up to "Custer's Last Stand" and more importantly to the effect it had on Native Americans this book provides a great deal of understanding.
Welch has the wisdom to write for his readers, some white, some not and maintains a clear eye throughout without devolving into blame or distortion.
The book is particularly interesting if you have been to or plan to go to the National Monument in southeastern Montana , an hour north of Sheridan , WY and the Bighorn Mountains.
The site has a moving quality to it, bare hills with white markers for fallen soldiers flanked by steep gullies leading down to the valley floor where a three mile long village of Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho gathered in late June 1876.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Brad Allen on February 13, 2010
Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed James Welch's book for a number of reasons. Most importantly, though, is its objectivity. I had some stereotypes and biases going in (probably still have some coming out, just different) on what a Native American writer would write about this conflict. I think I expected a straight-forward story with different good guys and bad guys than the history I had read in the past. What I found instead was a book where there really are no good guys.

I would highly recommend this book for anyone exploring this portion of history and especially for those who will be visiting the memorials and battlefields associated with it. It will tend to lend an air of objectivity and context to the slanted views at the museums throughout the West. This was a tough time in the history of both nations, the United States and the various Native Tribes. James Welch understands this and lays out the stories and facts to help us understand.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Evanovich on December 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Indian Wars fought during the 1860s and 1870s is a misnomer. That fighting should be described as "Native American Genocide," a term that best describes this country's treatment of Native Americans. James Welch writes about this era, which leads up to the Battle of the Little Bighorn during which Custer and his troops were defeated and killed -- not massacred. This book gives its readers a much better understanding of that era and how the U.S. Government mistreated Native Americans. One of the all-time best quotes is noted in the book. Chief Two Moons was a young warrior at The Battle of The Little Big Horn. When responding many years later to the question: "How long did it take to defeat Custer?", he said: "We swirled around them like water swirls around a stone. It took about as long as it takes a hungry man to eat his dinner." I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in reading about George Armstrong Custer and his eventual demise.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kevin M Quigg VINE VOICE on January 3, 2015
Format: Paperback
I think this paints a picture of the Native American experience of war and how settlers occupied their land with the government's permission. Custer is a complex man, and this short book neither explains him or his motives. It does explain the feeling of Native Americans on how they feel about the dispossession of their land. The Lakota and Sioux dispossessed the Blackfeet and Crow, and the white settlers dispossessed the Sioux. I think this short book sheds light on the Native American experience, but a better book would be Son of the Mourning Star, which goes into detail from both the settlers and Native American experience.

I think this is an OK read about the Battle of the Little Big Horn, and the Native American viewpoint. The Native Americans certainly suffered from the settlement of the continent.
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