IN THE SPIRIT OF CRAZY HORSE, Peter Matthiessen, Viking Press, 40 West 23rd Street, New York, NY 10010; 1983 (supressed), 1992, 627 pages, index, chapter notes, 0-670-39702-4. Availabl in reissued paperback, 645 pages, $15 from The Mail Order Book Catalog, 800-695-2241
I'm reviewing the original hardcover edition, which was supressed for 10 years by lawsuits conducted by former S.D. governor William Janklow (who didn't like what Matthiessen quoted Indian people -- and legal proceedings -- as saying about him), and FBI agent David Price. Like most people (who are aware of legal fees for this sort of thing) I believe these legal surpressions were financed by the U.S. government.
Why this was done was expressed by Leonard Peltier, perhaps the best-known longtime U.S. political prisoner: Matthiessen is a very good writer, who can not only marshall the complex facts of history, Indian activism, and the Peltier case, but imbue them with the life and literary expertise of a fine professional writer. He is perhaps the only real pro to have tackled such a task from the viewpoint of Native people, sovereignty, injustice with such success. At the time the book was surpressed, it likely would have mustered a great deal of support for Peltier's release. In a review here, I really have nothing to say except: (1) Every Indian person should own a family copy of this book, as should any non-Indians who porofess any sort of interest in "Native Americans". (2) I was shocked to find that none of the academic, University "Native American Studies" profs listed it as one of the 10 books they would use to teach their courses if they had to pick their top 10. (4) Nor does AISES offer it. Hard to find in bookstores, too. So it appears as if there's still a sort of academic conspiracy of silence.
The second edition, released in paperback as well as hardcover after the long-fought lawsuits -- financed (on the book's side) mainly by Viking -- had been won contains the original, plus some updates: the story of the lawsuits, and the famous Matthiessen interview of the masked Indian guy who says he was the actually killer of the 2 FBI men at Oglala (a confession which has had no effect on Peltier's status). You can also read here a long review essay which compares the info in this book to info in several others; it appeared anonymously in Akwesasne Notes in 1984. Then go out and buy that book for your family, your school, and yes, your students, all of them who are wannabe-interested in Native spirituality or whatever it is that makes them take your academic courses. This book is living history, and it is literature, too, due to the skills of its author. I find it astonishing that it is not carried by AISES Books (the reasons can only be political) and used in eevery Intro to NAtive American Studies. Get it, read it, keep it, give it as gifts to those who should have one. That's all I have to say about this essential book. Not-reviewed-by Paula Giese
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Native American BOOKS, text and graphics copyright Paula Giese, 1996
Last Updated: Tuesday, April 02, 1996 - 9:12:40 PM