Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Russell Freedman, the winner of the 1988 Newbery medal for Lincoln: A Photobiography (1987) and the noted author of numerous other informational books and biographies for young readers, has in Indian Chiefs chosen to tell the stories of the lives of six Native American leaders who were prominent west of the Mississippi River in the period following the Civil War. In doing so, he not only has portrayed these six individuals but also has given insights into the settlement of the American West and particularly into the treatment of Native American tribes by white settlers and the United States government.

The book begins with a brief introductory chapter that includes a map of the West, showing locations in 1840 of the major tribes discussed in the following chapters. General information is presented on the very complex role of a chief in Native American society. In addition, background on the conflicts that had existed since white settlers first came to America is provided.

Each of the six remaining chapters tells the story of one of the featured chiefs, focusing particularly on his role as a leader during the years from approximately 1860 to 1880. Red Cloud, the first chief who is examined, was recognized as a popular leader of the Oglala Sioux by the early 1860’s. He was, according to Freedman, the first tribal leader in the West, as well as the last, to win a war with the United States. The second chief, Satanta or White...

(The entire section is 475 words.)