The Dull Knifes of Pine Ridge: A Lakota Odyssey

The Dull Knifes of Pine Ridge: A Lakota Odyssey
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Joe Starita
Bison Books
1.0 pounds
6.0 inches
9.0 inches

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Biographies & Memoirs > Ethnic & National

Biographies & Memoirs > Ethnic & National > Native American Review

From his nursing home in South Dakota, 96-year-old Guy Dull Knife Sr., the oldest surviving member of the Dull Knife family to be profiled in this fascinating Sioux (also known as Lakota) history, says, "I was born in 1899 in a log house, but my father was born in a tipi.... The tipi was in the shape of a circle and in the middle of the tipi there was always a campfire. This, too, was in the shape of a circle. In the summers, when the Sioux from all over the Dakotas, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Montana would gather for the Sun Dance, the tipis in the villages would always be arranged in a circle. The circle was our symbol. It was a holy symbol that helped to remind us that we were connected to everything else." In the tradition of Native American storytelling, many of the tales in this five-generation odyssey have been passed down from father to son through word of mouth. Joe Starita, an award-winning investigative journalist, fills in the gaps with more than a century's worth of family documents and archival historical material.

In the latter part of the 19th century, Chief Dull Knife led his followers through some of the most brutal and ruthless battles between the white man and the Indians. His son George Dull Knife settled into reservation life and went on to join Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. From his nursing home, George's son, Guy Dull Knife Sr., the sole living Sioux World War I veteran, retells the tales of his youth and family history in his native Lakota tongue. His son Guy Dull Knife Jr., a Vietnam vet and self-taught sculptor, is trying to keep the ways of his native people alive for his children and future generations. Although Sioux women are said to have played important roles in the survival of tribal traditions and culture, this volume primarily focuses on the male members of not only the Dull Knife family, but the tribe to which they are inextricably tied.

Product Description

Joe Starita tells the triumphant and moving story of a Lakota-Northern Cheyenne family. In 1878, the renowned Chief Dull Knife, who fought alongside Crazy Horse, escaped from forced relocation in Indian Territory and led followers on a desperate six-hundred-mile freedom flight back to their homeland. His son, George Dull Knife survived the Wounded Knee Massacre and later toured in Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show. Guy Dull Knife Sr. fought in World War I and took part in the Siege of Wounded Knee in 1973. Guy Dull Knife Jr. fought in Vietnam and is now an accomplished artist. Starita updates the Dull Knife family history in his new afterword for this Bison Books edition.

Customer Book Reviews

Being a Lakota


I would never have read this book had I not been assigned a project dealing with Chief Dull Knife's death march from Indian Territory. I picked it up and got plenty of information about that historical event. Reading on, I discovered a great deal more. In addition to tracing four generations of Dull Knifes, this book is one of the most comprehensive and attractive histories of the Lakota people ever. It covers almost everything -from the battle of the Little Big Horn to the upsurge of Indian pride following the siege of Wounded Knee. Though I had read bits and pieces about them before, I was able to form a more integrated picture of the Sioux after reading this book. Often suppressed and today among the poorest groups in America, the Lakotas have held onto and passed down the beauty and resilience of their culture- like the Dull Knife who wore a medicine bundle into Vietnam and Sioux women favoring herbs and blossoms over shampoo. This spirit even shows in the narrative's fresh, confident feel. The book also offers a glimpse at the personality of Dewey Beard, the last survivor of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, who died in 1959 and was a friend of the Dull Knife family.

American Indian History


From the perspective of two generations of Dull Knifes (Guy Sr. and Jr.) the reader is given a 5-generation perspective on just about every important challenge faced by the Lakota/Oglala Sioux and Northern Cheyenne. There is more impact in reading this story than from reading a history book because these are real people telling their real stories which keeps within the Indian tradition of oral history. Most important, is the theme of resistance/persistence which runs throughout this history into the present day, emphasized by the obvious - 5 generations of Dull Knifes and still going. Highly recommended.


This book had me glued to it's pages .I was raised by a Lakota and this book reflects on the state of native americans in this country today and backs it up with the history to explain why.A must read if you want to "get inside" what has REALLY happened in this country to a race of people who almost were completely exterminated because of their advanced social ideals colliding with the morally bankrupt european "civilization" which at the time was barely out of the dark ages so much so in fact that when the colonists revolted they spouted Iroquois political ideals which were and still are more advanced than any idea the european mind has ever had .

Not saints, not icons, just real people tell their story

I read this book right after it was published. The patriarch in the nursing home, diligently preparing for his family's visit was neither overly sentimental nor written with the sort of political correctness one finds so often in this type of story. I found the story of this family to be absorbing. These people are tough as rocks, wonderfully artistic, incredibly brave, and amazingly realistic about their lives. This history struck me as very honest and sincere.

Outstanding biography


I had just come back from the Veterans Powwow at the Pine Ridge Reservation and because of the fantastic treatment I received there decided to read up on the Oglala Lakota Sioux, after all the amount I knew about the Oglala could be fit in a thimble. From the minute I picked up the Dull Knifes book I was hooked. The book flows as will the tears. You will find out about the Wounded Knee Massacre and the way the Oglala were treated by the whites and the government.And this all done with dignity, no crying or griping done. You will see how this fine AMERICAN family perservered. You will find out about the Northern Cheyenne as well as the Oglala. I can only say, if you can read and have a heart this book will touch it. And thats from a mixed blood Mi'kmaq.

Absolutely Priceless


I have read countless family sagas and this is one of the best! I am surprised this novel did not receive more credit. Also liked the vintage photos and quotes. It begins with Chief Dull Knife, legendary leader of the northern Cheyenne, and tells of his time during the 600 mile Cheyenne Long Walk which absolutely brought me to tears. This section covers many of the Cheyenne and Lakota battles as well as Custer and Fetterman, and on into Wounded Knee. There are intriguing stories about Red Cloud, Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, and many others. The saga also covers Dull Knife's children and grandchildren who settled on the Pine Ridge rez or Lakota nation. George Dull Knife toured Europe with Buffalo Bill Cody and I loved the funny tales; the Sioux ride their first and last carnival ride, one warrior battles an ape, and the Lakota bet a buffalo can whip a royal bull. On the more serious side you learn the cruel truth about civilization; Indian schools, allotments, and how terrible life was and still is on the Pine Ridge Indian Rez. Many of Dull Knife's grandchildren served in American wars such a World War 1 and Vietnam; the stories revealed here are interesting and it is sad many Native American war tales are overlooked in schools, books, and movies. I recommend this book for anyone interested in history, Cheyenne and Lakota life, and family sagas. I found myself laughing at some of the stories but crying through many parts. The author really brought to life the hard ships the Cheyenne and Lakota faced but also the valiant pride these people long forgotten by many honored. It is really hard for someone now-a-days to understand and sad because pride is a thing of the past. Reading his work I could almost see brave warriors taking bullets so that their starving women and children might escape the soldier's cruelty.

A Saga of Five Generations of a Proud and Beautiful People


An engaging story of one family of the Lakota (Sioux) from the time the treaty was signed creating Indian reservations to the present. In each generation one or more of the family members are presented in reasonable detail. See the hopes, challenges, and triumphs of each generation and get to know and love them as they attempt to hold onto important aspects of their native culture while they step into modern life with mixed successes. You'll gain an appreciation of the dedicated military service many Indians have given the U.S., and perhaps you'll twitch uncomfortably or maybe grin at the soldier who collected ears from his battlefield conquests. In total I gained a new respect of the Lakota.

Heartbreaking, but excellent reading


I found this book among a box of old books that were left behind in a basement. Because of my Cherokee heritage, I was compelled to read The Dull Knifes of Pine Ridge. And now, I'm glad I did. It is heartbreaking to read how the white man treated the Indian and everything that was done to them. This book tells of events that took place and aren't at all very pretty, especially in the Viet Nam era. If The Trail of Tears was found to be an enjoyable read, then you must read this story about the Lakota Indians. I enjoyed every page.

Real People with Real Lives


This is a great book! It's well written and very, very readable. It is, of course, an Indian perspective but written by a white man. But I believe he does justice to the Lakota and successfully shows what it feels like to be Lakota both past and present. The stories of Guy Dull Knife really show how unprepared and clueless whites were when it came to modernizing the Indian. Looking at the events of the last 100 years through clan Dull Knife eyes, it's so confusing trying to figure out the world of the white man. But the book is not a parade of unhappy experiences. The Dull Knife family has been involved in some truly fascinating chunks of history. For me I found the trek from Oklahoma back to South Dakota to be epic, Dull Knife and Little Wolf were true heroes. Also the personal stories of George Dull Knife working in Bill Cody's Wild West Shows told me things I'd never heard, including a dark side to these shows. You have to read about Lone Bull 'working' for a competing company. Lakota soldiers in the Army are in all our wars...just as tough now as they were against Custer. It's a very balanced book, it shows the good and the bad on both sides of Native American history. I think you'll see Indians in a different light after reading the book.



Perhaps, one of the more intriguing ways to view history is through the sequential generations of family. With this device, history becomes personal, it has essence, it is more than places, dates, and outcomes. Joe Starita accomplishes exactly this with The Dull Knifes of Pine Ridge. One can't help but be pulled into the story through the disarming capacity of empathy. Though tragic, it is also a story of perseverance and the unconditional commitment to freedom. It is the absolute refusal to lie down. The Lakota, like all Native Americans, were caught in the buzz saw of Manifest Destiny. A new nation, built on the concept of freedom, explicitly and categorically denied it to the people it found. Starita has chosen an exemplary family to share this history. They lived it and live it still. I don't agree with every author assumption and spotted a faulty premise or two, but this in no way changes the fact that The Dull Knifes of Pine Ridge is required reading for anyone with an interest in the Native American story. It is a 5 star reading experience.

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Book Summary: The title of this book is The Dull Knifes of Pine Ridge and it was written by Joe Starita. This particular edition is in a Paperback format. This books publish date is May 01, 2002 and it has a suggested retail price of $22.95. It was published by Bison Books and has a total of 392 pages in the book. The 10 digit ISBN is 0803292945 and the 13 digit ISBN is 9780803292949. To buy this book at the lowest price, Click Here.