In the spirit of Crazy Horse

by Peter Matthiessen

Paper Book, 1992



Call number

E93 .M46 1992


New York : Penguin Books, 1992.


An "indescribably touching, extraordinarily intelligent" (Los Angeles Times Book Review) chronicle of a fatal gun-battle between FBI agents and American Indian Movement activists by renowned writer Peter Matthiessen (1927-2014), author of the National Book Award-winning The Snow Leopard and the novel In Paradise   On a hot June morning in 1975, a desperate shoot-out between FBI agents and Native Americans near Wounded Knee, South Dakota, left an Indian and two federal agents dead. Four members of the American Indian Movement were indicted on murder charges, and one, Leonard Peltier, was convicted and is now serving consecutive life sentences in a federal penitentiary. Behind this violent chain of events lie issues of great complexity and profound historical resonance, brilliantly explicated by Peter Matthiessen in this controversial book. Kept off the shelves for eight years because of one of the most protracted and bitterly fought legal cases in publishing history, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse reveals the Lakota tribe's long struggle with the U.S. government, and makes clear why the traditional Indian concept of the earth is so important at a time when increasing populations are destroying the precious resources of our world.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member PuddinTame
By the end of the book, I felt that although this is a righteous cause, AIM is the wrong group of people.

What bothered me, what made me distrust Matthiessen, is that at several points he was rather coy, very odd in such a normally detailed work. He never does tell us what AIM claims happened at the
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shootout. Nor does he ever give us a coherent account of the trial. He covers the flaws in the government's story, while contorting to avoid giving us AIM's side. Which makes me wonder what he can't afford to say. He dramatically announces that someone else confessed to him, clearing Peltier, but despite this anonymous person's vow that he would come forward rather than let Peltier suffer for his crime, the latter sits in jail. Makes me wonder if Mathiessen is a little too gullible.

This could desperately have used some editting. In addition to being quite long, it is disjointed. I think that both flaws could have been simultaneously fixed, and the book would have been greatly improved.
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LibraryThing member fulner
I cannot recommend this audio book. It was really long (23 Discs) and it was mostly depositions from trial documents.

It was interesting just the same, and I still may purchase the dead tree version for reference. It may be easier to follow then too.

Regardless if you want more information on the
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American Indian Movement (including Leonard Pelltere) and the adventures of the Natives versus the government in the 1970s, I recommend the autobiography of Russel Means "Where White men fear to tread" instead. There is an abridged 6 tape audio book available, but again dead tree is better.
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LibraryThing member markm2315
The story is told as a drawn-out series of accounts of the famous shoot-out at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota in 1975, but also concerning many other related events and combined with extracts of court transcripts and of the author’s interviews. Ultimately it’s never clear why
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FBI agents were at the shoot-out site initially, who shot whom when, and exactly what Leonard Peltier had to do with it. Most or all prosecutorial, FBI, and presented “witness” accounts seem unreliable, and there is now knowledge of either fabricated ballistic evidence or information that was withheld about ballistic evidence. The author was clearly personally involved in this, his sympathies are immediately and everywhere clear. He brings the story to us in a protracted repetitive fashion, but the main disappointment for the reader is that almost everything is left in the air, and although it seems clear that Peltier was picked by the FBI to take the fall and then received a sham trial, it is also clear that two FBI agents were murdered (it's not self-defense when you shoot a wounded man in the head), and that Peltier is a serial felon from adolescence. An account related to the author from an unnamed and disguised Indian "X" confessing to the murders given near the end of the book didn't seem to be a more reliable account than any other.
I have had some interest in lying in the past, and I noticed that many of the stories told on both sides are of a type commonly used when lying (see the current liar-in-chief or, especially, Mr. Putin). If I ask you if you did something, a common truthful response might be "no", but a common untruthful response is, "Why would a person like me do something like that?".
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Original publication date


Physical description

xli, 646 p.; 22 cm


0140144560 / 9780140144567


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