Hugh A. Dempsey,
Red Crow: Warrior Chief
(Fifth House, 1995; 2003)

Red Crow: Warrior Chief ranks right alongside Rolling Thunder Speaks as one of my favorites among the Native American biographies. It reads more like a work of fiction than most biographies.

Of course, Red Crow was the type of leader who created engaging stories. He was a colorful character, a mover and a shaker who has been virtually overlooked by historians as they focused on the more visible characters and leaders.

Red Crow, whose birth name was Captured the Gun Inside, earned as his warrior name Lately Gone (Manistapo), which he hated. He finally was allowed to change his name to Red Crow. He became accustomed to having things his way, which usually proved to be the best way for all concerned. He was an extremely intelligent man.

Red Crow was born into a family of chiefs and was followed by chief descendants, including Two Suns (grandfather), Black Bear (father), Seen From Afar (uncle), Crop Eared Wolf (son), Shot Both Sides (grandson) and Jim Shot Both Sides (great-grandson). His family led the Blood tribe of the Blackfoot Nation for more than a century. It is safe to say his family produced strong men with outstanding leadership qualities.

I want to make it clear that recognition for war deeds did not equate to praise for killing. Killing was low on the ratings scale. Instead, the feat was judged by how much courage and skill it required. The most important war deed was to capture an enemy's gun, followed by his bow and quiver, shield, medicine bundle and other war items. A warrior was far more respected for capturing a man's gun than for killing him. Capturing horses was more about economics than war; thus, when warriors went on raids to capture horses, they tried to get the items that brought honor.

From an early age, Red Crow just wanted to be a great warrior. He was not concerned with the politics and leadership of the tribe and simply wanted to do what interested him. He was brave, cunning and a risk-taker, but his risks usually paid off handsomely. It did not take him long to acquire great wealth from his raids, even though he always gave away some, if not most, of his captured horses.

Red Crow was definitely an adrenalin junkie! He possessed every quality desired in a leader and became a leader while in his teens, yet he loved excitement.

This book is an adrenalin rush. The excitement does not stop once Red Crow becomes chief, but shifts from capturing horses to fighting for his people. The action never slows down.

Hugh A. Dempsey has produced a masterpiece, with a writing style that puts you inside the action. He engages all your senses. The story flows smoothly from beginning to end and so do your emotions. He keeps you enthralled.

Red Crow: Warrior Chief is a thrilling book about a man of action. Whether you are holding your breath as he belly-crawls toward an enemy camp or absorbing his words as he speaks for his people, you will enjoy every second of living alongside this great man.

review by
Alicia Karen Elkins

30 August 2008

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