The Town That Took A Chance

From its first boom during America’s biggest gold rush to its current gamble on gambling, Deadwood, South Dakota, has managed to keep itself very much alive

Maybe I was fated to take a trip to Deadwood. Back in 1952 I was living under the high white Hollywood sign while my father played small parts in big movies, such as Popilius Lena in Julius Caesar , the version that starred Marion Brando. That year Paramount was making two Westerns on adjoining sound stages. One was Shane ; the other was Son of Paleface , starring Bob Hope, Jane Russell, and Roy Rogers.

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Toward The Little House

A LIFELONG FASCINATION with the stories of a famous pioneering family finally drove the writer to South Dakota in hopes of better understanding the prairie life Laura Ingalls Wilder lived there and later gave to the world.

When she was a little girl in Wisconsin in the 1870s, her father would take her and her sister on his knee after supper in their log house and tell them wonderful stories about bears and panthers and little boys who sneaked out to go sledding on the Sabbath. Then later she would drift off to sleep in her trundle bed hearing her father play his fiddle. Even after they left their comfortable house, and meals became unpredictable, the stories went on, as did the fiddle music. It was too good to be altogether lost. Read more »

Revolution In Indian Country

AFTER CENTURIES OF CONFLICT OVER THEIR RIGHTS AND POWERS, Indian tribes now increasingly make and enforce their own laws, often answerable to no one in the United States government. Is this the rebirth of their ancient independence or a new kind of legalized segregation?

MICKI’S CAFE IS, IN ITS MODEST WAY, A bulwark against the encroachment of modern history and a symbol, amid the declining fortunes of prairie America, of the kind of gritty (and perhaps foolhardy) determination that in more self-confident times used to be called the frontier spirit. Read more »

Carving The American Colossus

The granite was tough—but so was Gutzon Borglum

In late August, 1970, a band of Sioux Indians entered the sacred precincts of a National Memorial in South Dakota and bivouacked on a mountaintop there for several weeks. The precincts were sacred to the Sioux because they are in the heart of the Black Hills, long regarded by their tribe as the dwelling place of Indian gods and spirits. And, as signaled by the apprehensive behavior of park rangers who monitored the Indians closely during their stay, the precincts are also precious to the United States Department of the Interior.Read more »

Rattlesnakes And Tumbleweed: A Memoir Of South Dakota

A few years ago, when she was about seventy, Mildred Renaud took a creative-writing class in the adult-education program at the high school in Briarcliff Manor, New York, where she now lives. For class assignments she started writing an account of her childhood in Iowa, Nebraska, and the Dakotas at the beginning of this century. Her teacher, impressed with the vividness of her memory and the charm and authenticity of her presentation, suggested that she submit these memoirs to AMERICAN HERITAGE.Read more »

The Ordeal Of Plenty Horses

CAUGHT BETWEEN TWO CULTURES, A YOUNG SIOUX SOUGHT TO MAKE HIMSELF A HERO—BY KILLING AN ARMY OFFICER

On January 8, 1891, newspapers throughout the United States headlined a tragic event in the Indian troubles rocking the Sioux reservations of South Dakota. A talented and popular army officer attempting to enter a hostile encampment to talk peace had been treacherously slain by a young Sioux warrior. The death of Lieutenant Edward W. Casey shocked and saddened his legions of friends and admirers.Read more »

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 »