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Crazy Horse: A Lakota Life (The Civilization of the American Indian Series) Hardcover – November 15, 2006

4.2 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Although Crazy Horse has been a favorite subject for decades, many key aspects of his short life have remained enigmatic. In this extensively documented account, Bray utilizes a diverse array of primary sources, including contemporary Indian agent reports, personal military diaries, annual reports of the U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and surprisingly detailed oral histories recorded in interviews with Crazy Horse's contemporaries nearly 50 years after his death. Bray documents not only the chief's well-known battles but also some of the more personal elements of his life, including his mother's suicide, his marriages, his visions, and his initiation into the Strong Hearts, a Lakota isolationist group that eschewed all contact with Americans. Crazy Horse's belief in the importance of the Black Hills to Lakota survival eventually leads him on the path to the Little Bighorn in June 1876, and to his death a year later. Bray's account not only traces the major steps taken by this remarkable chief, but also places them within the context of Lakota culture, past and present. Deborah Donovan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

“Wielding the source material with muscular assurance and a judicious eye, historian Bray aims at nothing less than a definitive account of the great Oglala warrior and tribal chief. This nonfiction debut promises to be a standard reference for many years to come.” —Publishers Weekly
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Product Details

  • Series: The Civilization of the American Indian Series (Book 254)
  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press; 1st. edition (November 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806137851
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806137858
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.2 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #903,356 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By L. C. Robinson on August 12, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I purchased this book over a year ago and just recently took it down from my library to read it. (I do this regularly finding a book that interests me buying it and then setting it aside to read at a later time, when I feel I am in the proper mood.)

Mr. Bray's book is everything I had hoped for and I am a bit surprised by some of the reviews stating disappointment mostly based on criticisms as to it not being a proper "history." Considering the oral traditions of the North American Indian any history/biography of this type must of necessity be replete in "opinion. " For without that it would be near impossible to move the story along. Mr. Bray has, as has many biographers, used the statements of others as sometimes-primary source material. While some may wish a better foundation, in the case of Crazy Horse (who's middle name must have been "reticence") one must make educated use of what is at hand. I believe the author has done a splendid job in doing just that.

What I found compelling was the deep perusal of the Plains Indians religion, better stated perhaps as their spiritual existence. Everything about the day-to-day activities of Crazy Horse and his people were unified, in some way, to their belief in the world of the spirit. Mr. Bray explores this and brings the difference between Native American and European culture into sharp focus, at least in this one respect. All of us "white eyes" would benefit in attempting to understand more deeply the importance the life of the spirit played and still plays in Indian culture.

In reading "Crazy Horse A Lakota Life" I was transported to the beautiful, never ending prairies of Wyoming and Montana, the fresh clean odor of prairie grass, hearing the burbling streams and the soft nicker of a Sioux warriors pony.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Worth the read for those who want depth on this subject. I would term it more a political history of the Great Sioux Nation than a biography of Crazy Horse although he is the central figure. Mr. Bray's research deserves great respect and reflects years of work. But the conclusions he reached from that research should be regarded as one perspective, and not the final word on the subject. There are some great differences of opinion in Indian Country on the genealogy presented here. Having said that, in terms of grasping an understanding of the subject matter I highly recommend it.
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Format: Paperback
After three months, I'm finally through with this maddening book, except for one final step, reviewing it. About a month ago, I had the opportunity to meet Joseph Marshall III at a book signing, and I asked for his assessment of Bray's book. He reflected a moment and said, "It's full of indispensible facts." That, I'm afraid, is a superb five-word review. Bray has gathered up wheelbarrow-loads of "facts" and dumped them on the page with little grace and less discrimination. If you are looking for answers to the questions that bespatter our knowledge of Crazy Horse - the mythic hero or the real person -- you are wasting your time. For the myth, Mari Sandoz, Larry McMurtry, and Joseph Marshall are vastly superior. As for the reality, what Bray's exhaustive research will show the careful reader is that the truth about Crazy Horse is lost, and only the warring fictions remain.

On the Plus Side:
Bray's chapter on Little Big Horn is the best in the book, in that he gives a clear, coherent narrative. And his analysis, in the next chapter, of CH as a military tactician is excellent, in spite of the continuing racial ineptitude of his point of view. Bray reminds me of the avuncular boss who calls his secretary "cutie," blithely oblivious to the insulting nuance of his word choice. This is not "A Lakota Life." Bray's book came from a library, not Wounded Knee. When he talks about the SIoux, he might as well be discussing the Dahomey Empire. Sorry, this was supposed to be the Plus side. The book is exhaustively researched, using every possible source, and in that respect, "indispensible.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
i try to read everything i can on crazy horse , this is the best yet. altho mari sandoz's remains the best "story" in my humble opinion. but for an accurate history of the man and events this is the one.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As of this writing I have completed the first four chapters but wanted to put down my initial impressions. Sadly, I am somewhat disappointed. I was expecting the text to contain an analytical study of the life and times of Crazy Horse in which the author presented multiple views and reminiscences relating to Crazy Horse and tried to arrive at a reasonable conclusion. However, what the author has done is present unsubstantiated details as facts in the text and even tries to tell us what Crazy Horse was thinking during certain events. How can he know this? This is really what Mari Sandoz did, but updated with a lot more details added to the story.

Another example is in chapter 4. Bray supplies a quote and declares the speaker to be Man Afraid of His Horse. But in the footnote at the end of the book, he states that the quote came from an unidentified speaker, but in his opinion, it was Man Afraid. My opinion is, he should have written the words "perhaps spoken by Man Afraid of His Horse" in the text of the book. As it is, others will now quote Bray and follow his lead, until the speaker becomes Man Afraid in future books, with the "perhaps" being all but forgotten. Maybe I'm too sensitive to this, but it irks me.

Overall, this book is fun to read, but has not, at this point, met my expectations.

Update--
I have now finished the first 8 chapters.

At the close of chapter 6 Bray makes it clear he is suffering from hero worship when he writes: The career of the Lakota people's greatest warrior had begun.

Perhaps "one of the greatest" would have been more realistic.

On page 77 he states that the Lakota declared "open war" on the Americans [1864]. He goes on to state that it was a "major offensive.
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