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.
By J. Carroll on Sep 04, 2012
By using the history of the Dull Knife family as his foundation, Joe Starita has developed a very informative and enlightening history of life for the Lakota Sioux, from Little Big Horn to the present day. By focusing on this family, Starita is able to provide the reader a personal interest in their story, all the while expanding his investigation to cover a variety of topics. Bill Cody's Wild West Show where George Dull Knife was a performer, the horrific massacre at Wounded Knee, and the service of Native Americans in the U.S. Armed forces where they dealt with prejudice and racism while in defense of their country are all examined in great detail by Starita, but always with the Dull Knife's as an integral part of the story; one family at the center of an amazing series of events. It is this personal focus that keeps the reader engaged and at times Starita drifts away from the Dull Knife family to make a greater point, but this tends to cause the narrative to become a bit dry and too much like textbook. Luckily this occurs only occasionally as the generational component always proves to be the most compelling part of this story.
By Limey52@aol.com on Jul 05, 1998
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.
Heartbreaking, but excellent reading
By Susie Rigsby on Jan 11, 2005
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.
A Saga of Five Generations of a Proud and Beautiful People
By Claudine Johnson on Jan 14, 2002
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.
Being a Lakota
By Munir on Jul 19, 2002
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.
Not saints, not icons, just real people tell their story
A Customer on Jul 24, 1998
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.
By Sun Set on Jan 30, 2009
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.
By Nto62 on Feb 03, 2009
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.