Tasunka Witko/Crazy Horse stories Sandoz Heard

“Crazy Horse laughed, a sound they had seldom heard this last while. “I am no white man,” he said. “They are the only people who make rules for others and say:  ‘If you stay on one side of this line it is peace but if you go on the other side I will kill you all.’ There is still plenty of room, my friend. Camp where you wish.”

If you’re searching for a biography to dig into in then I suggest  ye seek and find a copy of Crazy Horse, The Strange Man of the Oglalas by Mari Sandoz. It’s an oldie but a damn goodie if there ever was one.  Several other writers have taken runs at rendering the life and times  of the Lakota warrior.  Kingsley Bray’s work is quite fine, but for my money, Mari Sandoz’s effort delivers the real goods. Why? Because she and Eleanor Hinman gathered information directly from people who actually knew Crazy Horse—He Dog, Little Killer, Short Bull, Red Feather.  No amount of digging through papers can substitute for that sort of personal engagement with living sources with memories to share, the ability to answer questions, and provide details. Though by her own accounting, Sandoz also did a lot of digging through various paper piles.  What’s perhaps most telling was her awareness of the expressive yet difficult to wield power of language and writing to convey the ‘unknown’ to others–an awareness that prompted her to state, “…I have used the simplest words possible, hoping by idiom and figures and the underlying  rhythm pattern to say some of the things of the Indian for which there are no white-man words, suggest something of his inner nature, something of his relationship to the earth and the sky and all that is between.”  Some things can not be translated because there are no ‘equals’ for concepts, for values, for insights and connections from one language and culture to another which has no such concepts, values, insights or connections. Sandoz realized this essential ‘lack’ or obstacle and did her best to overcome it in order to try to get at the heart of a man, of a people, of a culture under intense assault to become something entirely foreign to their natures.  That’s a tough task for any writer working outside their own mental landscape. Sandoz took it on of her own accord and the fact that the resulting writing has the power to break through time and place and cultural barriers places the work in a class by itself.


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