This is the first scholarly biography of Chief Gall of the Hunkpapa Lakota, a war chief under Sitting Bull. He was present at the Battle of the Little Big Horn - his band of the Hunkpapaís village was attacked by Major Reno, and some of Gallís wives and children were killed in this attack.
Robert Larson begins his biography with Gallís birth and puts together the story of his early life as best as can be done. Much of this biography includes what was happening to the Lakota during Gallís lifetime, especially the Hunkpapa - the two stories are intertwined. Larson examines historical records on Gall and his band in different archives and other sources, as well as interviewing Gallís descendants to see what the family oral history had kept about him, to compile a new, clearer biography.
Gall was a great warrior and very loyal to his band, especially when he became the chief or headman - it was his job to take care of the members. He was loyal to Sitting Bull, one of his leading lieutenants until he broke with him in Canada when the people of his band began to starve. He and others decided they needed to surrender to the American government and move to the reservation in order to receive food. This was not an easy decision for Gall, but his band came first.
Gall was involved in treaty negotiations both before and after the Battle of the Little Big Horn. He was not easily convinced that the treaty conditions as the commissioners presented them were best for the tribeís welfare. In demanding changes to the treaties, he was a powerful voice in the negotiations. After his surrender, he tried to farm and lived his life as well as he could under his new circumstances. The Indian agent tried to make him and others into model Indians for others to follow. He eventually became a Christian and was baptized into the Episcopal Church.
At an anniversary celebration of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, Gall was asked about the battle. In this telling, new information was revealed to the public that had not been known before. Some thought he was bragging about his particular part of the battle, but they misunderstood how Indians told such stories; it was in fact common for warriors to tell their stories in this way. Larsonís biography provides the Indian point of view of Little Big Horn and other battles.
This book is not a quick read; Larson provides a plethora of facts. In his introduction into the history and makeup of the Lakota bands, Larson also explains the various names for the tribe. The most widely known is Sioux, but this was a name given to them by their enemies. The tribe prefers Lakota, Dakota, or Nakota, depending on the various bands of the tribe. Several black-and-white illustrations and photographs of Gall and his family as well as other Indian leaders are juxtaposed with photographs of Indian agents and generals. Maps are interspersed throughout the book. Included in addition are endnotes, a bibliography of primary and secondary sources, a list of those whom Larson interviewed, and an index.
This book is highly recommended to those interested in Chief Gall, the Lakota, the Battle of the Little Big Horn and other battles.
Robert W. Larson is a retired history professor at the University of Northern Colorado, Greeley. He is the author of Red Cloud (1997), Shaping Educational Change (1989), Populism in the Mountain West (1986), New Mexicoís Populism (1974), and New Mexicoís Quest for Statehood, 1846-1912 (1968).