Echoes Of The Little Bighorn

No single battle in American history has won more attention from more writers than the relatively insignificant defeat of a handful of cavalry by a few thousand Indians on the Little Bighorn River in 1876. How could there be anything new to say about it?Read more »

“this Nation Never Saw A Black Man Before’

With the current wave of interest in black history, authentic Negro heroes have been eagerly sought in the American past. It has been hard going, since the disposition of the white majority from colonial times until rather recently was to prevent blacks from playing any role that could possibly be viewed as heroic, and to ignore the exceptions that failed to conform to majority prejudices. And indeed, where a black man’s historical reputation has overcome all this, it has sometimes been in despite of honest historical evidence.Read more »

Four Indian Kings In London

In the first years of the eighteenth century Peter Schuyler, mayor of Albany, was friend and protector of the Mohawk Indians. They camped familiarly in his parlor, dined at his table, and called him “Quider,” the Mohawk pronunciation of Peter. They were also lured into supporting Schuyler’s bold plans for the invasion and subjugation of French Canada. For the desultory War of the Spanish Succession, involving France and England, was being waged in Europe and on the high seas. In America it is remembered as Queen Anne’s War.Read more »

A Man For All Souls


On October 19, 1720, was born one of the few saints and prophets this country has produced. John Woolman, the Quaker, of Mount Holly, New Jersey, is still relatively unknown in his own land though his Journal is extensively read in England, Germany, and France. That he lacks fame in his own land is not surprising. Too many of his ideas ran counter to those held by a majority of the population in his own time. His greatness lay in his compassionate humanity, a quality that is only rarely in fashion. Read more »

The Boy Artist Of Red River

Between the ages of fifteen and twenty, young Peter Rindisbacher captured on canvas the lives of Indians and white pioneers on the Manitoba—Minnesota frontier

On August 12, 1834, a twenty-eight-year-old Swiss-born youth named Peter Rindisbacher, who was just beginning to attract international attention with his colorful and realistic drawings of Indian life along the mid-western United States and central Canadian frontiers, died in St. Louis. In a brief obituary the Missouri Republican noted his passing: “Mr. Rindisbacher had talents which gave every assurance of future celebrity. … He possessed a keen sensibility and the most delicate perception of the beautiful.” Read more »

The Great White Father’s Little Red Indian School

Supporters of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School believed that complete absorption of the Indian into American society was best for everyone

Brevet Major General G. A. Custer and about 215 soldiers of the 7th Cavalry had been massacred at the Little Big Horn only a little more than three years before. Geronimo and his Apaches would not surrender for another seven years. The date was October 6, 1879, and the good burghers of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, were treated to the sight of a band of blanketed Indians parading through the old colonial town toward the abandoned army post on the outskirts.Read more »

O-Kee-Pa -- American Heritage Book Selection

In words and pictures, George Catlin recorded the secret ceremony, a blend of mysticism and horrific cruelty, by which the Mandans initiated their braves and conjured the life-sustaining buffalo.

The degree of physical torture to which some American Indians voluntarily submitted as part of their religious tradition appeared cruel and sanguinary to the few white men who witnessed such rites. An outstanding example, unknown to most readers of history because of the white man’s general neglect of Indian customs and folklore, was the O-kee-pa ceremony by which the Mandans initiated fledgling warriors and summoned the all-important buffaloes.

How The Indian Got The Horse

One innovation profoundly changed—and prolonged—the culture of the Plains Indians

On Thursday, May 24, 1855, Lieutenant Lawrence Kip of the U.S. Army, stationed at Fort Walla Walla in what is now Washington, made this entry in his diary:


Minnesota’s Sioux uprising began with senseless murder on a peaceful Sunday afternoon. Before it ended, the smell of death was everywhere


The day was August 17, 1862, a Sunday when most of the settlers in southwestern Minnesota were taking a Sabbath rest in the midst of the farmers’ yearly race to get in the ripe grain while the weather stayed good. If it was like most days in a Minnesota harvest season, there was a blue haze along the prairie horizon and the dusty smell of dry grass and wheat stubble in the air. Read more »

Painters Of The Plains

The Middle West has put its stamp on many artists’ work

It is a big country, sprawling all the way from the Alleghenies to the Rockies, and it puts its mark on the people who live in it. Its climate tends to be uncompromising— baking heat in the summer, hostile cold in the winter—and it has never done anything by halves. Where it had forests, they rolled for hundreds of miles, great stands of hardwood, green twilight under their branches; its open prairies were like the sea itself, rolling west in an unbroken treeless groundswell.Read more »