Download Crazy Horse Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Crazy Horse Summary

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In Crazy Horse: A Great Warrior of the Sioux, Doris Shannon Garst integrates a fictive re-creation of Crazy Horse’s youth into the historical record that documents the decline of the Sioux nation as a free people. Within the framework of factual events, Garst narrates the struggle of young Crazy Horse—originally named Haska, or “light-skinned one”—to distinguish himself as a respected member of his tribe. In the process of growing up, Crazy Horse learns that true heroism can only be realized by those who act in behalf of the good of the community, rather than for personal glory.

The narrative spans approximately twenty-five years, beginning with Crazy Horse’s boyhood experiences and concluding with the massacre at the Little Bighorn in 1875, General Nelson A. Miles’s confrontation with Sitting Bull in 1876, and Crazy Horse’s surrender in 1877. The early chapters of the work present experiences that are representative of a typical Sioux boyhood, involving such exploits as horse stealing, mock buffalo hunts, and games to develop strength and fighting skills. Later chapters focus upon more significant events in Crazy Horse’s life, such as his vision quest and the scene that would forever transform not only his life but also the military tactics of the Sioux—the sight of white soldiers marching in formation to decimate the innocent Brulés tribe. After gaining prominence as a military leader, Crazy Horse trained his warriors to fight as a disciplined unit in order to execute predetermined strategies of attack. Garst provides dramatic re-creations of important military battles, broken promises made to landholding tribes, and significant acts of violence against Native Americans. With the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre, in which Colonel John M. Chivington led his brigade to slaughter a peaceful Cheyenne village, the Plains nations unified into one federation in order to wage war and to protect their lands.

The narrative is set in South Dakota, with Garst chronicling the movement of the nomadic Oglala as they migrate between their winter and summer camps along the Powder and Platte rivers or settle temporarily at Bear Butte in the Black Hills. Indeed, it is the Sioux’s struggle to retain rightful ownership of the Black Hills that becomes a unifying theme of the book’s later chapters. The tribe had long considered this area holy ground, and the United States government had previously ratified a treaty assuring the Sioux permanent rights of ownership. After gold was discovered...

(The entire section is 621 words.)