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The Killing of Crazy Horse Hardcover – Deckle Edge, November 2, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 67 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Powers (The Man Who Kept the Secrets) details the rise and untimely fall of the Lakota's most famous warrior in this richly detailed, sensitive, and evenhanded portrayal. Little known before his stunning surprise victory over Custer's 7th Infantry at Little Bighorn, Crazy Horse (ca. 1840–1877) became the strongest opponent of white incursion on Indian land in the Black Hills, revered for his strategic brilliance and bravery. Opposed to any concessions that would remove his people from their land, Crazy Horse terrified the American military as well as those Indian leaders who considered cooperating with the U.S. government's demands. Drawing on firsthand accounts by soldiers and officers, settlers and Lakota, the author assembles a savvy analysis of the conflicting interests and worldviews at play, highlighting the cultural and political misunderstandings that led to the (most likely) accidental slaying of the Lakota leader as he surrendered to U.S. forces at Camp Robinson. Numerous conflicting versions of what happened in Crazy Horse's final minutes are handled with aplomb by the author, as is the warrior's shifting legacy in the decades after his death. (Nov.) (c)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Less a biography than the study of a lost way of life, Powers’s sprawling chronicle uses the great Lakota warrior as a springboard to examine the history and culture of the Sioux tribes. Simultaneously, Powers rectifies the biased inaccuracies of a historical record that has traditionally treated the murder of Crazy Horse as “something between a footnote and an afterthought.” Drawing on extensive fieldwork and a dizzying amount of firsthand sources, Powers vividly describes the personalities, politics, and conflicts that shaped the era and defined the troubled relationship between Native Americans and the U.S. government. Some readers may be overwhelmed by Powers’s exhaustive research and persistent (if fascinating) digressions, but most will find Crazy Horse “a rich and worthwhile read” (Oregonian).

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (November 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375414460
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375414466
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #830,071 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After reading Bray's Crazy Horse a year ago, I approached Tom Powers' book with some trepidation. I'm pleased to say that Powers did precisely what Bray failed to do: sort through the evidence and parse together a coherent narrative, weighing sources and giving the reader ways to gauge their accuracy and reliability. you will finish the book with a clear sense of what happened and why.

Let me give you just one example of how Powers goes beyond the paper-shuffling in Bray's "biography": Bray reports that Crazy Horse's friend Touch the Clouds said, while looking down at the dying chief, "He got what he deserved." Sorting through the notes, we can discover that this "statement" was recorded by an Army officer responsible for Crazy Horse's death and the officer did not understand Lakota. Powers mentions the same report, and points out that what Touch the Clouds actually said in Lakota was probably "He was looking for death, and it came." It's a trivial point, but Powers uses it to title and end a chapter, and his correction shows a sensitivity to Lakota culture that is absent from Bray's book.

Although Powers most foregrounded source is Bill Garnett, a half-Sioux interpreter who didn't like Crazy Horse, what emerges here seems fair, if painfully sad, and the Indian sources, which Bray scarcely seems aware of, are present on every page. That does not mean a partisan polemic. Powers doesn't paint the players in black and white. Perhaps the saddest thing in the book is the universal prevalence of venality in humans.

There have been some complaints about the digressiveness of the book. I attribute that to our collective ADD.
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Format: Hardcover
A Story that Needs to be Told, and Thomas Powers Tells it Well - 5 Stars

At first I did not know if I could trust the book. I have read most of Thomas Powers' works, and was not sure how much expertise he could bring to this topic. Heisenberg's War and Intelligence Wars were both superbly written but far removed from this topic.

My fears were completely put to rest within the first few pages. It became obvious that the author spent years going deeper and deeper into the history of the American Indians, and their confrontations with the spreading of America through the Plains states and territories.

If you have any interest in a true history of the confrontation of our Native Americans, and the rapid expansion of territorial America than this is the book for you. If you think you understand this segment of American history from your school courses, you probably don't. As Americans, as free citizens, we need to understand what Powers is writing about. It is powerful stuff, and it needs to be told.

A book like this is a biography of many people. Allow me to mention two of them to you, to give you some insight into how the book is organized.

Crazy Horse
A warrior his entire life, a charismatic leader of his people. Prior to taking on General Custer, he was known for the Fetterman Massacre in December of 1866, when he lured approximately 80 US soldiers into an ambush against 1000 Indians. Up until that time, it was the worst defeat suffered by the US Army at the hands of the Indians. Little Big Horn would follow.

General George Armstrong Custer
How he lived, how he died has been molded for decades now by Hollywood's production of "They Died With their Booths On".
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Format: Hardcover
When an excellent writer - who is also thoughtful and generous - focuses on a historical event that still holds mystery, the resulting work is often a glory for us all. This one is.

Powers's book is rich in detail and deep in research. And it's personal. You are with Powers and his brother in 1994 in Crow Agency, Montana, and you are with him again on the Pine Ridge when he visits "people who knew people who knew Crazy Horse." He tells you why he was attracted to this story after a lifetime of being a grownup. The finest work by this Pulitzer Prize winner may turn out to have been conceived when he was 12 years old.

A full appreciation of Power's book would probably benefit from at least some advance knowledge of the Plains Indian Wars, but readers don't really need it. If you do want to warm up to Powers, though, Ian Frazier's "Great Plains" would be a good and quick introduction - Frazier's description of the death of Crazy Horse could make anyone weep. Evan Connell's "Son of the Morning Star" is another instance of an excellent writer turning to an old but incomplete story and making a masterpiece of it. After you've finished Power's "Crazy Horse," set it on your bookshelf alongside Connell's "Morning Star." They're two of a piece.
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Format: Hardcover
Late in the evening of September 5, 1877, a mortally wounded Crazy Horse struggled to sing his death song. His father Worm and friend Touch the Clouds remained vigilant while reminding him that he was not alone. As Crazy Horse sang the last verse and took his last breath, so went the great Lakota nation as it reached the end of a way of life that forever remains a memory to its entire people. The beginning of that end was the previous May when Crazy Horse and his followers surrendered to a young Army officer somewhere along Hat Creek. It can be argued that the Battle of the Little Bighorn or the surrender of Sitting Bull marked that beginning; however, there were many battles in 1876-1877, and Sitting Bull fled to Canada. It is Crazy Horse who continued the fight and who symbolizes the defiance of the Lakota nation; he continues to inspire his people even today. Yet, the world still struggles to understand why Crazy Horse was killed. That is the question Thomas Powers answers in his book, "The Killing of Crazy Horse".

Somewhat like Evan Connell's Son of the Morning Star: Custer and The Little Bighorn, Mr. Powers' narrative follows a unique structure that some critics have unfairly deemed confusing. I find it refreshing and invigorating. The opening chapter alone takes us on a whirlwind journey that includes the Fetterman Battle, Red Cloud's killing of Bull Bear, Crazy Horse's birth, how he got his name, and his becoming a shirt wearer. We are lucky that Mr. Powers chose the death of Crazy Horse as the subject for his book; otherwise we would not experience his vivid description of a tragic episode from the American West.
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