A Review, Red CloudA Story Of War And Surrender
By Dakota Wind
Bismarck, ND (TFS) – “I was born a Lakota and I have lived as a Lakota and I shall die a Lakota,” said Red Cloud. So opens S.D. Nelson’s Red Cloud: A Lakota Story of War and Surrender, a first-person narrative of the Lakȟóta leader Maȟpíya Lúta, Red Cloud, and the history of his people before his birth, through his life, and death in the confines of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in what became South Dakota.
Similar to Nelson’s Sitting Bull: Lakota Warrior and Defender of His People, Nelson tells this story by rendering a beautifully and fully realized world in the historic Plains Indian style of art reproduced here as though on a ledger book.
Red Cloud’s story breaks down the complexity of inter-tribal conflict, and the great struggle for resources and tribal sovereignty on Makȟóčhe Wašté, the Beautiful Country (Great Plains; North America). The two Fort Laramie Treaties are touched on, an agreement between nations, and how both were broken by the United States.
Red Cloud’s War is retold with this new pictography, and first-person narrative. The evolution of Plains Indian warfare grows from personal conflict and honor to organized military strategy. Red Cloud’s War is one of the wars the United States lost, a concession of the war was that the Lakȟóta shut down the Bozeman Trail and retain control of Powder River Country, but this was short-lived.
The decision for Red Cloud to sign the 1868 Fort Laramie must have caused a great internal struggle for the Lakȟóta leader and the people who followed him. The first-person narrative captures this struggle, “For the sake of my own people, those who followed, me, I accepted and signed the new treaty papers. But of course I did not represent the desire of all the people. Opinions were divided.”
The story of Red Cloud is taken up to his death, followed by a reflection on the journey of his people. Red Cloud’s story isn’t finished because his life came to an end, his story continues because his people continue.
There are books that deserve to be taken apart, but Nelson’s book literally deserves to be taken apart if only to frame the pages. Such pages are 4 (men astride their horses in water), 16 (meeting at Fort Laramie in 1851), pages 20 & 21 (the pipe dance), pages 29 & 29 (Red Cloud’s challenge of the Bozeman Trail), page 33 (a war party), and page 49 (the post-death reflection).
S.D. Nelson is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. His traditional name is Maȟpíya Kiŋyáŋ (Flying Cloud) He is an award-winning author and illustrator of numerous children’s books. His books have received many accolades, including the American Indian Library Association’s Youth Literature Award, a place on the Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List, and the Western Writers of America Spur Award. Nelson lives in Flagstaff, AZ. Follow him online at sdnelson.net.
Nelson, S.D. Red Cloud: A Lakota Story of War and Surrender. First ed. New York, NY: Abrams Books For Young Readers, 2017. 64 pp. $19.95. Hardcover. Photos, illustrations, timeline, notes, bibliography, index.
North Dakota Content Standards
Grades 4 and 8
Resources: 4.1.4; 8.1.2
Concepts of time: 4.2.2, 4.2.3, 4.2.4
People and events: 4.2.5
Physical geography: 4.5.3; 8.5.1
Human geography: 4.5.5, 4.5.6; 8.5.2, 8.5.3
Culture: 4.6.1, 4.6.2; 8.6.2
US History & Imperialism: 8.2.4, 8.2.9, 8.2.10, 8.2.11