The Earth Is Weeping: The Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West by Peter Cozzens. I ended up reading this due to random circumstances; my dad bought it (on an impulse, as far as I can tell) last week and, since I was visiting for the holidays, insisted that I read it too before going back home. I was reluctant at first, since I wasn't sure if I wanted to commit to a 400+ page academic-level text written by a dude whose political stance I didn't know (I can't think of a better way to phrase that... I didn't want to be a hundred pages in before realizing the author supported Christianizing the heathens), but I eventually gave it a chance, and I'm glad I did!
The Earth is Weeping covers the 1850s to 1890s, and pretty much every piece of land in the US west of the Missouri – with a few detours into Canada and Mexico as well. My main worry quickly and thoroughly turned out to be unjustified, as Cozzens's sympathies are clear right from the epigram:
We have heard much talk of the treachery of the Indian. In treachery, broken pledges on the part of high officials, lies, thievery, slaughter of defenseless women and children, and every crime in the catalogue of man's inhumanity to man the Indian was a mere amateur compared to the 'noble white man'. –Lieutenant Britton Davis
Throughout the book, Cozzens's focus is to complicate the simple picture of Indians vs whites. He repeatedly emphasizes the divisions and infighting on both sides: between different tribes, between the peace and war factions of a single tribe, between the army and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, between Western settlers and Eastern humanitarians, and frequently coming as far down as differences of opinion and action between individuals.
The subtitle of 'Indian wars' is appropriate, as Cozzens concentrates very specifically on battles and similar military actions, each of which is laid out with extreme detail, including maps and the names of individual soldiers, warriors, and noncombatants. On the other hand, even closely related topics like Indian schools, missionaries, individual murders or atrocities, Buffalo Bill, Presidents and Congress and nation-wide depressions, etc, etc, get barely a mention. That isn't really a critique, since a book that covered everything remotely related to this topic would probably actually be a dozen books. But occasionally I missed having that contextual information.
I'm not very familiar with this period of history, so the one critique I do have to make is that I would have liked more of an introduction or list of 'characters'. Given that the book covers multiple decades and a very wide territory, there's an unsurprisingly huge numbers of names, places, and alliances to keep track of. Cozzens seems to have assumed that most readers will come into this book with a level of knowledge that is higher than mine – and honestly, he's probably correct, but it was all new and confusing to me! Still, that's a minor problem, and it's not like I couldn't google where the Absaroka Mountains are, or what the connection between the Oglalas and the Lakotas is when I needed to.
Overall, it's a well-written book, packed full of information, and well worth reading. I recommend it.
What are you currently reading?
An Obvious Fact by Craig Johnson. The new book in the Longmire series! :D
I also have another short story rec for you all this week! Shaina Rubin Keeps Her Head Under Circumstances Nobody Could Have Expected
by Rebecca Fraimow. It is a sequel to the wonderful Further Arguments in Support of Yudah Cohen’s Proposal to Bluma Zilberman, which you may remember when it got recced all around when it first came out. You can read the new story without having read the original, but I would not recommend it because they're both excellent and why would you want to miss out? They're both hilarious, use dialect adroitly, and feature people handling supernatural events with amusing nonchalance. I want an entire novel set in this world.
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