Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Red Cloud: A Lakota Story of War and Surrender

Rate this book
The author and illustrator of Black Elk’s Vision and Sitting Bull continues his picture-book biography series with Red Cloud, the story of one of the most controversial leaders in Native American history.

A leader among the Lakota during the 1860s, Chief Red Cloud deeply opposed white expansion into Native American territory. He rejected treaties from the U.S. government and instead united the warriors of the Lakota and nearby tribes, becoming the only Native American to win a war against the U.S. Army. Despite his military successes, Red Cloud recognized that continued conflict would only bring destruction to his people. He made the controversial decision to make an agreement with the U.S. government, and moved his people to a reservation. The effects of his decision—as well as the conflicts that arose from those who rejected the agreement and continued fighting against white expansion, such as Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull—shaped much of the history of Native American relations with the U.S. in years to come.

56 pages, Hardcover

First published March 14, 2017

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

S.D. Nelson

19 books23 followers

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
64 (40%)
4 stars
73 (45%)
3 stars
18 (11%)
2 stars
3 (1%)
1 star
1 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 43 reviews
Profile Image for Abigail.
7,113 reviews186 followers
June 11, 2021
Lakota artist and children's book author S.D. Nelson, whose previous forays into the world of picture-book biography include Black Elk's Vision: A Lakota Story and Sitting Bull: Lakota Warrior and Defender of His People , returns to the form here, telling the story of Makhpiya-luta, or Red Cloud. A Lakota warrior and eventual war chief, Red Cloud fought against the encroachment of Euro-American settlers on his land, leading and organizing a series of attacks from 1866 through 1868 that came to be known as Red Cloud's War. Eventually realizing the futility of the conflict, and the suffering it was causing his people, he signed a treaty with the U.S. government in 1868. He lived the rest of his days on a reservation, although he traveled east to Washington, D.C. at one point. He died in 1909, having converted to Catholicism. Like his other titles in this vein, Nelson's book concludes with a detailed timeline, an author's note, a list of sources, a bibliography and an index...

I found Red Cloud: A Lakota Story of War and Surrender both informative and engaging, and I thought Nelson's illustrations, done in ink, watercolor and colored pencil on ledger paper, were beautiful. I did think that the narrative here, although told from Red Cloud's perspective, was somewhat less immediate than in titles like Black Elk's Vision: A Lakota Story and Sitting Bull: Lakota Warrior and Defender of His People , where more of the subject's childhood and personal life was explored. Here the focus seemed almost exclusively upon the historical developments, which were labelled and dated in the text, with sections having titles such as "1855 - The Pipe Dance," or "1868 - Third Fort Laramie Treaty." Still, I do think Nelson captures Red Cloud's sense of responsibility to his people, even if other leaders, such as Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, considered him a traitor for his actions in signing the treaty, and ceasing hostilities. I continue to be impressed by Nelson's storytelling, and by his illustrations, and look forward to his latest effort, Crazy Horse and Custer: Born Enemies , due out later this year.

Although a picture-book, this one is far too advanced in text and subject matter for very young children, and would be more suitable for upper primary and middle-school pupils, who are interested in the history of the American West, the conflicts between Euro-American settlers and Native American nations, and the life story of Red Cloud.
Profile Image for Krista the Krazy Kataloguer.
3,873 reviews267 followers
November 22, 2017
What I loved about Nelson's biography of Red Cloud is that it's told in Red Cloud's voice, and because the background to the text and illustrations consists of the faint lines of pages from old ledgers that the frontier forts would have kept, it felt like a story being told as it happened, back in the 19th century. Scattered throughout the text are quotes from Red Cloud, other Native Americans, and some of the white American officers and government officials. Some of them are quite harsh: "Kill and scalp all, big and little. Nits make lice. -- Colonel John M. Chivington." Nasty man. Many of Nelson's illustrations are colored pencil, in a style that might have been sketched by someone watching the events happen; other illustrations are black and white photos. It's a sad story, even though Red Cloud was one of those Native Americans who signed the white man's treaty and tried to make peace. Nelson includes a timeline of events and a note at the end providing more information about Red Cloud, his people, and the broken treaties. This is one of the better biographies I've read of Native Americans. I must read his biography of Sitting Bull next. Highly recommended, though sad.
Profile Image for KC.
2,403 reviews
October 29, 2017
Beautifully illustrated biography of Red Cloud, chief of the Lakota. Interesting historic events of the white man's war against the Lakota people and the relationship that Red Cloud had with the non native people of this country-even w President Grant. Looking forward to the rest of this series.
Profile Image for Elizabeth S.
1,737 reviews71 followers
June 12, 2018
Very well done. Nelson helped me expand my vision of the Native American struggles and attempts to retain heritage, freedom, and family. Red Cloud was a hero. He taught his people new battle tactics and recognized when they must surrender to save their families. As always, my mind boils thinking of the corruption and indifference that caused the US government to fail to keep promises. The Native Americans did a much better job learning and understanding the white man's way of life.

And then there were those, such as Sherman, who felt that all Native Americans, including women and children, must be exterminated. Even though Sherman and his kind won the war, Red Cloud was the better man by far. Thanks for teaching me something about his life.
Profile Image for Claudia.
2,441 reviews86 followers
May 15, 2018
Truly a multi-genre account of one of the last Lakota chiefs. Red Cloud chose to surrender and stop fighting. He knew his people could never win.

Nelson's illustrations are works of art, modern ledger drawings, with details from the ledger pages and his own stylized paintings shining through. There are also photographs to bring the story to life.

Nelson writes in Red Cloud's voice, sharing the triumphs and the tragedies. As with his other books, he includes a bibliography of sources, end notes for his work, a timeline, and a personal author's note.

His books are important additions to the field. His scholarship and his talents blend masterfully.
Profile Image for Kris.
2,935 reviews70 followers
April 23, 2018
Heartbreaking and an intriguing contrast to some of the other picture book biographies I’ve read about native leaders from this time period. Red Cloud tries the treaty, diplomacy route, while leaders like Sitting Bull fought to the end. It was a no-win situation for all. The U.S. government was determined to decimate them no matter which route they chose. The art in this was particularly impressive, a wonderful combination of photos and drawings.
171 reviews
January 6, 2018
I learned a lot about the challenges Red Cloud faced while trying to roam free on the land he loved.
Profile Image for Jill.
2,186 reviews80 followers
January 13, 2018
This biography serves as a companion book to Nelson’s previous biography, Sitting Bull: Lakota Warrior and Defender of His People. It is written in the imagined voice of Red Cloud, born in 1821, who was a member of the Oglala tribe - one of seven Lakota tribes, known by non-Natives as the Sioux.

Red Cloud’s people were warriors who had fought against other tribes to establish their homeland in the Black Hills. But then “strange people with pale skin came up the rivers into our country.” At first, the whites (called wasichus by the Lakota) just wanted to trade.

The traders were followed by throngs of whites headed to California in search of gold. They in turn were followed by the U.S. Army, sent west to protect settlers crossing Lakota lands. As the author writes in Red Cloud’s voice:

“It became clear to me and other Lakota that the wasichus planned to devour the land and conquer us.”

Nelson summarizes the conflicts between the U.S. Government and the Native Americans, many of which arose over deceitful manipulation and broken promises by the U.S. He reminds readers, inter alia, of the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864, when the U.S. Army led a force of 700 against a sleeping Cheyenne village in Colorado and gunned down two hundred men, women, and children. He writes:

“Afterward, they went on to Denver in triumph, brandishing the scalps, severed fingers, and other body parts of the slain innocents.”

[Nelson omits details of rape and of the exact and gruesome nature of body parts gathered for “souvenirs.”]

Sand Creek served to unite the Plains Indians more than any other event. Many looked to Red Cloud as the war chief. He ordered a series of raids in an attempt “to push the intruders out of our country once and for all!”

The U.S. Army came back trying to negotiate another treaty, bringing gifts and whiskey, which seduced some of the Native Americans who signed the papers. But as with previous treaties “negotiated” in the same bad faith, “those leaders who signed did not represent the desire of all our people.” Red Cloud and the Oglala resolved to fight. Red Cloud was recorded as saying:

“The riches that we have in this world . . . we cannot take with us to the next world. I wish to know why commissioners are sent out to us who do nothing but rob us and get the riches of this world away from us?”

It was difficult, however, for the Native Americans to prevail over the might and resources of the U.S. Army, led in the West by William Tecumseh Sherman, who stated that Indians were “the enemies of our race and of our civilization,” and vowing in 1866 that “We must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to their extermination, men, women, and children.”

A significant battle on December 21, 1866 pitted the U.S. Army against 2,000 Native warriors. Eighty-one army soldiers died and the battle was considered a victory for the Lakota and Cheyenne. But Red Cloud knew that their triumphs would be few and far-between: they were outnumbered and outgunned. In addition, Sherman initiated a policy of killing off the buffalo to deprive Native Americans of food and clothing. Red Cloud saw it was time to surrender and accept rations from the U.S. Government, saying “We must think of the women and children and that it is very bad for them. So we must make peace.”

A new treaty in 1868 granted the Black Hills to the Sioux (albeit inside a reservation), but of course, even that turned out to be temporary when whites discovered gold in the Black Hills. In 1876 U.S. Army General George Crook deposed Red Cloud and appointed a more conciliatory head chief and negotiator for the Lakota Sioux, and confiscated the Black Hills.

Red Cloud died in 1909 and is buried on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

The illustrations, by the author, are done in ink and colored pencil in the style called Ledger Book Art. When Natives were forced onto reservations, the only paper they could get was in the form of bound ledger books no longer of use to the white man. The Plains Indians used the books to create the art they previously painted on buffalo robes, tipis, etc. The bound books of lined paper were turned into beautiful testimonials to Native life and memory.

There are also a number of reproductions of historical photos included in the book. Historical quotes are included periodically, offset from the text.

At the back of the book, there is an extensively annotated time line, Author’s Note, a select bibliography, and index.

Evaluation: This excellent combination of biography and history tells a riveting and tragic story. Such books as these can enhance the ability of young people to see the plight of others from different races and religions, and would make an invaluable addition to any classroom. (The intended audience is ages 8-12, but I myself found it to read like a page-turner.) Telling the story in the voice of Red Cloud helped add immediacy and emotional heft to the story.

The book also serves as a correction to the omission from contemporary history of the mass murders of Native Americans by the American Government.
35 reviews
November 28, 2018
I read Red Cloud: A Lakota Story of War and Surrender, with some trepidation. I know something of the history of U. S. relations with the indigenous peoples of this country. I was surprised in some ways.

The story of Red Cloud is narrated by Red Cloud, and chronicles his and his tribe's history with the US government, specifically the conflicts in the Indian lands of the Dakotas and the Wyoming Territory. Red Cloud was candid about his tribe's behavior toward the settlers and soldiers who invaded their lands, describing the interminable violence that seemed to define those years.

This is not a pretty story, but it does express the anguish and frustration of the American Indian's life in this country with the coming of the European settlers. It would take a lot of fortitude on the part of a teacher to give fair and equitable treatment to this subject in his classroom, but this is a good book to start with. I think it's fair game for 8 years and up.
Profile Image for Melle.
1,278 reviews28 followers
May 4, 2017
S. D. Nelson combines ledger art-inspired illustrations with historical photographs and a fact-based imagined-first-person perspective for this solid biography about Red Cloud (focusing primarily on his adulthood and his time as a military and political leader within the diverse Lakota nation), which also includes a lot of contextual history and information regarding federal Indian policy (though I am disappointed the publisher didn't call a spade a spade and actually use the word "genocide" in reference to the goals and methods of termination), other renowned Lakota and Indigenous figures (along with some of the U.S. ones), and a good introduction to the complexities and nuances of the politics of our First Nations.
Profile Image for Penny Peck.
503 reviews18 followers
August 26, 2017
Written as if Red Cloud is telling the story, this biography of the Oglala leader is designed as a ledger-art style book, similar to those written and drawn by Native American Indians in the 1800's. The book design features the text set onto the lined journal pages, quotes from Red Cloud in red typeface, and drawings done in colored pencil in the style of the ledgers. There are also numerous b&w photos. At first, one could be concerned that using the first person voice to tell Red Cloud's story but not his own words could be a problem, but there are numerous quotes from him, and the tone sounds realistic. The book concludes with source notes, a bibliography, author's note, timeline, and index. The author is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in the Dakotas.
Profile Image for Pam  Page.
1,166 reviews
May 9, 2017
Told from Red Cloud's point of view, this story covers the rise of Red Cloud to leadership of the Lakota people and his eventual surrender. The format creates a high interest with details about many battles and relationships with other Native Americans. Authentic photographs are sprinkled throughout the book. The back matter in this book is extensive: a timeline, Author's Note, endnotes, a bibliography, image credits, and an index. This is not only an excellent resource for classrooms that study Native Americans but would also make a great read-aloud.
Profile Image for Cornmaven.
1,615 reviews
August 24, 2017
Well balanced account of Red Cloud and his role in how Indian tribes came to reservations. Nelson tells this from Red Cloud's perspective, so it turns the many Army-Indian conflicts in the 19th century on their heads. Nelson acknowledges the warlike approach the Lakota took to their encounters with white people and other Indian tribes. It's also another account of how Indians viewed the treaties, how the U.S. Government ignored/broke the treaties, and how the full scale attack on Indians came about.

The illustrations are beautiful. Includes a timeline and bibliography.
Profile Image for Beth.
3,176 reviews13 followers
November 5, 2018
Great picture book with a variety of styles -- photos and realistic drawing to show actual people and items, artistic renditions of people, and a background of faded journal pages that resonate with the time period. It gives a good overview of Red Clouds life, of the changing conditions that led to his decisions and options, and the grim future that America forced on the Native Americans standing in the way of its vision.

However, the first person nature left me unsure of how reliable the information was -- I wanted more of a sense of where the information was coming from.
Profile Image for Katherine.
512 reviews5 followers
July 3, 2017
A first-person narrative from the perspective of Chief Red Cloud. Much like in his other works, S.D. Nelson (a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of the Dakotas) does a beautiful job of researching and writing this narrative. First-person historical accounts are not usually my favorite, but I think that style brought a certain amount of humanity to this controversial figure.
557 reviews13 followers
August 4, 2017
A sorrowful tale, well-told. Red Cloud's story is told in the first person, which was impactful. The art and archival photographs throughout the book enhance the storytelling. Reading this book makes me feel ashamed yet again that the US government has treated the native people so horribly, with such little regard for promises made.
Profile Image for Alyssa Gudenburr.
1,814 reviews10 followers
July 13, 2017
Red Cloud's story for children has beautiful illustrations, historic pictures, and full of information from the Lakota perspective. This picture book is very long, and would be hard to read aloud in one sitting but could be broken up into timeline events for an elementary class.
40 reviews
November 29, 2017
2017. Biography 3. Good during this time period in history, read aloud, or during a Native American Month. It about Red Cloud and is written in a way that makes it seem like he wrote it. There is a timeline in the back.
Profile Image for Earl.
3,496 reviews39 followers
January 21, 2018
Told from the perspective of Chief Red Cloud, he recounts the battles between different tribes and with the US Government. It's an interesting read of the difficult choices a leader makes in order to save his people. Meticulously researched.
Profile Image for Emilia.
234 reviews4 followers
March 3, 2018
This book is beautifully illustrated and very informative without being pushy or taking sides. The subject matter is undeniably sad, but is presented well and in a matter-of-fact tone that is revealing and appreciated. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Michael Kearney.
291 reviews10 followers
September 15, 2017
Excellent book about the Plains Indian War told from Red Cloud's view point. Beautifully illustrated with a great color map on the inside cover.
Profile Image for Catherine Yezak.
342 reviews2 followers
October 24, 2017
Good for younger readers or for a research project. It does not suit Young Adult Readers. It may help some struggling readers, but I think they would get bored with the pace of the story.
March 12, 2018
Needs to be used in grades 4 through 8 for a historical nonfiction book. great illustrations by the author, a member of Rock Sioux Tribe. Best pencil drawings i have ever seen
Displaying 1 - 30 of 43 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.