Moon of Popping Trees

Moon of Popping Trees

Moon of Popping Trees

Moon of Popping Trees

Synopsis

The last significant clash of arms in the American Indian Wars took place on December 29, 1890, on the banks of Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota. Of the 350 Teton Sioux Indians there, two-thirds were women and children. When the smoke cleared, 84 men and 62 women and children lay dead, their bodies scattered along a stretch of more than a mile where they had been trying to flee. Of some 500 soldiers and scouts, about 30 were dead- some, probably, from their own crossfire. Wounded Knee has excited contradictory accounts and heated emotions. To answer whether it was a battle or a massacre, Rex Alan Smith goes further into the historical records and cultural traditions of the combatants than anyone has gone before. His work results in what Alvin Josephy Jr., editor of American Heritage, calls "the most definitive and unbiased" account of all, Moon of Popping Trees.

Excerpt

During the 1973 occupation of the Indian community of Wounded Knee by other Indians, many people asked me what happened at Wounded Knee "the first time." They knew it was something bad, but they weren't quite sure what it was. And that's how Moon of Popping Trees began. Originally it was intended only as an article telling the story of the Wounded Knee tragedy of 1890. Had the project stopped there, Popping Trees would no doubt have been just the basic story of that event, and probably no more enlightening than a hundred previous ones on the same subject. But then I was given a Reader's Digest assignment to investigate and report on the Indian problems of today. And the more I traveled, studied, and interviewed in researching the so-called Indian problem, the more I realized that all of its elements--racial attitudes, cultural conflicts, interpretation of treaties, congressional actions, impact of the press,--are directly tied to and influenced by those same elements as they existed on the frontier nearly a century ago. Then I began seeing Moon of Popping Trees as much more than the simple story of a fight. It began to emerge as a potential vehicle for giving Indians and non-Indians alike a better understanding of the Indian problems of today through a more accurate understanding of their background and development.

At that point the Popping Trees project shifted from article to book. And even though I already had a comprehensive background in its subject material, I suddenly found myself buried under a burden of research far heavier than anything I had expected. The reason is that key word, "accurate." For in no area of American history is true accuracy harder to achieve, nor has more inaccurate nonsense been written, than in that pertaining to the American Indian. There are several reasons.

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