Work Title: Crazy Horse: A Lakota Life
Work Author(s): Kingsley M. Bray
University of Oklahoma Press
24 b/w photographs and illustrations, 528 pages, Hardcover $34.95
Reviewer: Deborah Donovan
Crazy Horse, an enigmatic Lakota warrior and chief whose life spanned the mid-nineteenth century years of American expansion, has undoubtedly been one of the favorite subjects of Native American biographers during the last sixty years. Each of these has added a layer of mystique to Crazy Horse's life, starting with Mari Sandoz's classic 1942 biography, Crazy Horse, the Strange Man of the Oglalas, which this author maintains "helped shift the paradigm in Indian studies, away from the racist stereotyping of the previous century, toward a more empathetic reading of the Lakota world."
Bray continues in this tradition, drawing on extensive oral histories of Lakota tribal elders, who related episodes in Crazy Horse's life told to them by their grandparents. Bray interweaves these archival interviews with numerous other primary sources, including Senate hearings, military diaries, U.S. Army records, Indian Agent reports, and annual reports of the U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs. The author has also immersed himself in modern Lakota writings, enabling him to place key episodes in Crazy Horse's life within the context of Lakota traditions and beliefs.
Born in 1840 (approximately), Crazy Horse grew up knowing no other life than the "post-Oregon Trail world, with its inheritance of disease, game attrition, and resource loss." In his sweat lodge ceremony at age fifteen, Crazy Horse is remembered as asking not for horse herds or battle glories, but "the power to serve his tribe." Several years later he was invited to join the Strong...