Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

by Dee Brown

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Summary and Analysis Chapter 5: Powder River Invasion

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Red Cloud: Oglala Sioux chief who fought and won a war against the Army.

General Patrick E. Connor: Army general and the leader of the Army’s campaign in Powder River country.

In late summer 1865, after the Army had decided to hunt down the Indians north of the Platte River like wolves, soldiers move into the Powder River country to invade that land. After learning that a privately organized column is moving into the country to pass through to the Montana gold fields, the Sioux and Cheyennes briefly harass the wagon train before letting it pass, but a nearby Arapaho camp, taken off guard by the Army’s presence, is annihilated by its soldiers. The Arapahos retreat, and after a Sioux truce party is shot at by soldiers, conflicts between Sioux and the Army ensue. The Sioux, led by Roman Nose, attack the Army in September and continue harassing soldiers through September. The Army retreats to Fort Connor and remains there throughout the winter, during which time half of the so-called Galvanized Yankee troops die from disease and malnutrition. The newly confident Indians deploy some warriors to keep guard over the fort while the other Indians move into the Black Hills.

Again, the chapter title, “Powder River Invasion,” leads the readers to see the conflict between the Army and Indians from the Indians’ perspective, as it is the Indians who are being invaded. And again, the story of Indian land being invaded by a group of whites seeking gold is told, although this time the whites were merely passing through to Montana. The Indians’ initial disbelief and naiveté over the news of Army invasion shows that they have yet to learn the gravity of the threat whites present to their lifestyle. The victorious Army seems not satisfied by the defeat it inflicts: General Connor is described as hungry to destroy more Indian villages. The low morale of the Army’s Galvanized Yankee troops, however, makes the readers wonder how widespread this hunger really was. The Indians’ successful resistance to the Army troops is impressive, but given the difficulties that must be overcome to ensure continued success, Red Cloud’s boastful words at the chapter’s close ring a little hollow.

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