The Dust Rose like Smoke: The Subjugation of the Zulu and the Sioux

The Dust Rose like Smoke: The Subjugation of the Zulu and the Sioux

The Dust Rose like Smoke: The Subjugation of the Zulu and the Sioux

The Dust Rose like Smoke: The Subjugation of the Zulu and the Sioux


In 1876 Lakota and Cheyenne warriors annihilated Custer's Seventh Cavalry at Little Bighorn. Three years later and half a world away, a British force was wiped out by Zulu warriors at Isandhlwana in South Africa. In both cases the total defeat of regular army troops by forces regarded as undisciplined barbarian tribesmen stunned an imperial nation.

Although the similarities between the two frontier encounters have long been noted, James O. Gump's book The Dust Rose Like Smoke is the first to scrutinize them in a comparative context. "This study issues a challenge to American exceptionalism," he writes. Viewing both episodes as part of a global pattern of intensified conflict in the latter 1800s resulting from Western domination over a vast portion of the globe, Gump's comparative study persuasively traces the origins and aftermath of both episodes.

He examines the complicated ways in which Lakota and Zulu leadership sought to protect indigenous interests while Western leadership calculated their subjugation to imperial authority.
The second edition includes a new preface from the author, revised and expanded chapters, and an interview with Leonard Little Finger (great-great-grandson of Ghost Dance leader Big Foot), whose story connects Wounded Knee and Nelson Mandela.


In May 2001 I met with Leonard Little Finger in his office in Oglala, a small town on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southwestern South Dakota. Little Finger, a lifelong resident on Pine Ridge, taught Lakota studies to Lakota children at Loneman School. Soon after we exchanged pleasantries, Leonard shared a story about John Little Finger, his grandfather. “When I was a boy of eight or nine,” Little Finger related, “I went fishing one day with my grandfather John in the reservoir near Oglala.” Soon after they began fishing, both heard the rumble of thunder in the distance. “Grandfather said that the thunder reminded him of Wounded Knee. It was the first time he ever talked about Wounded Knee.” Little Finger’s grandfather then lifted his pant’s leg to reveal a hideous scar and proceeded to tell his grandson the story about that terrible day in December 1890.

On December 29, 1890, troops from the U.S. Seventh Cavalry, George Armstrong Custer’s old regiment, opened fire on a party of mostly unarmed ghost dancers on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, “homeland” of the Oglala Lakotas. When the firing ceased, several hundred Lakota people, including men, women, and children, lay dead at Wounded Knee. Some bodies were found three miles from the original Lakota encampment, gunned down in cold blood. On New Year’s Day 1891 a troop detachment returned to the killing ground at Wounded Knee. The soldiers dug a large pit, collected the frozen Lakota corpses scattered about, and tossed them into a mass grave. After the winter passed, the Lakotas put . . .

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