Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “In the Spirit of Crazy Horse: The Story of Leonard Peltier and the FBI's War on the American Indian Movement” as Want to Read:
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse: The Story of Leonard Peltier and the FBI's War on the American Indian Movement
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

In the Spirit of Crazy Horse: The Story of Leonard Peltier and the FBI's War on the American Indian Movement

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  3,258 Ratings  ·  151 Reviews
On a hot June morning in 1975, a desperate shoot-out between FBI agents and Native Americans near Wounded Knee, South Dakota, left an Indian and two federal agents dead. Four members of AIM, the American Indian Movement, were indicted on murder charges, and one, Leonard Peltier, was convicted and is now serving consecutive life sentences in a federal penitentiary.Behind th ...more
Paperback, 688 pages
Published March 1st 1992 by Penguin Books (first published 1983)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about In the Spirit of Crazy Horse

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Rating details
Sort: Default
Liz Muñoz
Nov 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book really affected me. It made me angry at the injustice that happened to these people. Mattiessen really did his research for this book. It's a detailed account of the incident at Wounded Knee in the 70's, AIM (American Indian Movement) and the trials that followed thereafter. Thankfully, the FBI lost in it's attempt to prevent this book from being published. It's an important book and we have the right to learn about the attrocities committed against the Native Americans. I feel strongl ...more
Dec 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, history
Free Leonard Peltier!


Well, you have to read this book, but here's a synopsis that nobody but the most diehard 1970s FBI defender can try to deny.

Matthiessen documents years of FBI spying on the American Indian Movement, including "turning" insiders, coupled with intimidation tactics and more. Often the FBI in South Dakota was working, if not hand in hand, at least on parallel tracks in this thuggery with folks such as a corrupt Pine Ridge Indian Reservation leadership, then-Attorney General
Elegant, passionate investigative muckraking in the grand style: messy, gnarly, informative, memorable and anger-inducing. This is a sweeping, detailed novelistic tour de force that raises more questions than it answers and sometimes has you questioning the author's veracity while at the same time having you shaking your head in agreement over his findings and conclusions. In investigating the state's case against Leonard Peltier and his cohorts, Matthiessen presents a disgraceful historical lit ...more
Sean Kottke
Sep 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This saga of the conflict between the U.S. government and Native Americans picks up where Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee leaves off, and makes the critical point that as excellent as that earlier book is, contemporary readers might get a false sense of complacency from it, that we live in a more enlightened age and the struggles exist in the past. This book, which focuses mainly on the events surrounding the shootout on the Pine Ridge reservation in 1975 and the story of Leonard Peltier, serves a ...more
Oct 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse is one of the best non-fiction books that I have read. The story is a volatile cocktail of violence, poverty, intimidation and historical oppression. And then when the FBI gets involved the problems only escalate from there.

This book logs in at nearly 800 pages. The first 200 pages are slow going and quite unnecessary if you already have background on modern Sioux history and the American Indian Movement. The story really gains traction with the events in the summer
Oct 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I read this book in 1992 as part of a graduate American Indian Law seminar conducted at the University of Colorado Denver (UCD) with Dr. Glenn Morris - the head of the Denver chapter of AIM as the instructor. It was one of more than several books used in the seminar but certainly for me one of the more memorable and influential. Also, the now infamous Dr. Ward Churchill was a guest instructor on several occasions.

He never represented himself as a Tribal member and although the courts have quest
Karis North
Jun 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Detailed almost to the point of excrutiating, but overall excellent recitation of the events leading up to the killing of 2 FBI agents in Oglala, on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Matthiesen's research is painstaking, and once I realized how the book was organized it made sense and I could follow it (he hides his explanation in the notes for each section). The facts are incredibly convoluted, and there are so many layers to what happened. Matthiesen does a pretty good job of tryin to sort it all ou ...more
Gary Butler
May 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: current-events
33rd book read in 2017.

Number 339 out of 598 on my all time book list.
Feb 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook, america
This is the longest audiobook I've listened to so far - and I'm glad it occurred to me to speed it up a bit because I was enjoying the information provided but it was starting to drag on a bit long and the library hold was about to expire for the second time.

I think this is a good book for everyone to better understand the background to the No DAPL movement. The connection isn't made until much later in the book, but it's eventually suggested that the attempts by the FBI to disrupt AIM and like
Feb 28, 2009 rated it liked it
This is an important book, and I'm impressed with the amount of research and time Matthiessen put into it, and I think the story needed to be told. That said, I spent the vast majority of it wishing that an unbiased journalist would come shove him away from his computer, steal his notes, and take over writing the book for him. I agree with him on pretty much everything, but still he was so biased that he undermined his own point of view. At one point he actually argued that the fact that the mur ...more
Jan 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crime-etc
I don't think you can hold the shortcomings of this book against Matthiessen. As with any complicated, partisan event, each perspective offers only one piece of the patchwork. And this is an important one, even if some of the information that's emerged since its publication challenges some of aspects of Peltier's defenders' arguments.

Nonetheless, the book is commendable for its examination of the renewed wars against Native Americans as the coal, oil and uranium under their lands became increasi
Sep 08, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a lengthly and sobering account of the American Indian Movement in the 60's and 70's, and the continuing conflict between Native Americans and the U.S. Government. There are references to broken treaties between our government and Indian tribes, racism, and the poor conditions on Indian Reservations. The main element of the book concerns Leonard Pelteir, convicted of murdering two FBI agents on a reservation during a shoot-out between Native Americans and the FBI. Apparently, the publish ...more
Apr 22, 2014 rated it liked it
This book recounts an almost unbelievable tale of corruption and serves as a good reminder of just how ineffective and horrifying the justice system becomes in the hands of people with political agendas. Sure, this account was biased, but it doesn't change the fact that a man was purposely railroaded and denied every ounce of fair treatment and the ability, through the withholding of evidence, for a fair trial. Nor does it seem that the actions taken against the American Indian Movement, however ...more
Nov 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
If you want to learn about what the FBI did to the American Indian Movement in the 1960s and 1970s with COINTELPRO and you want to learn about the events that led to the wrongful imprisonment of Leonard Peltier, then read this book. We didn't stop oppressing and killing Indians in the 1800s...
Aug 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Nonfiction. Two words... Leonard Peltier. Two more words... Oglala Shoot-out. Two more words... FBI tampering. Enough said.
Joeri Ryckaseys
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have finally read through Pieter Matthiesen's "In the spirit of crazy horse". I've been interested a long time in the case of Leonard Peltier. The shootout on the 26th of june 1975 in Oglala, Pine Ridge Reservation was part of the bullying and harassment of the FBI and BIA against the Lakota there. Agents Coler and Williams were searching for Jimmy Eagle and went out on there own. They found Dino Butler, Bob Robideau and Leonard Peltier and started shooting at them. Ofcourse they fired back. T ...more
Jason Williams
Jul 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
Not sure if I'm going to finish this one. I'm about 150 pages in and it is getting laborious.

Published in 1980, Spirit of Crazyhorse has that same tone of righteous indignation as Zinn's People's History published around the same time. But Mathiessen doesn't/didn't know how to or didn't want to skim over any details, which makes for an indignant rambling of fact and name after fact and name that lacks narrative cohesion. Nor is their any suspicion as to his argument or conclusion, so nothing int
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, crime
The story is told as a drawn-out series of accounts of the famous shoot-out at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota in 1975, but also concerning many other related events and combined with extracts of court transcripts and of the author’s interviews. Ultimately it’s never clear why FBI agents were at the shoot-out site initially, who shot whom when, and exactly what Leonard Peltier had to do with it. Most or all prosecutorial, FBI, and presented “witness” accounts seem unreliable, a ...more
May 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have read about ten books on the North American tribes, including a few by some very well known authors, but this is the first one that I have read where it seems as if the white author was really speaking from the Native American’s viewpoint.
That really stuck out to me, that empathy and sensitivity.
This book covers the events leading up to the killing of 2 FBI agents in Oglala, on the Pine Ridge Reservation. It gives you a nice history of the American Indian Movement (called AIM) in the 60's
Oct 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of those books you have to read. Peter Matthiessen's book 'In the Spirit of Crazy Horse' concerns the conviction of Leonard Peltier for the murder of 2 FBI agents. Although aware of the issues faced by Native American indians, I was completely taken aback by the sheer level of injustice and corruption involved in sending this man to jail. I was even more shocked to find he was still in prison. Read the book - it's well researched, balanced and very detailed - and make up your own mind. I've ...more
Clifford W. Snedeker  Jr.
An Unsubstantiated Fantasy

Leonard Peltier is a common criminal, and not a hero who fought in the spirit of Crazy Horse. Crazy Horse was a great man who fought entirely for his people. Peltier condones the killing of defenseless combatants. Yet if the shoe was on the other foot, and the combat were from his nation, im sure he would think it wrong. That's not living by the code of the warrior.Anyone who participated or condones it is a coward. I assure you Crazy Horse was not. This book although f
Brad Mundy
Oct 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is incredibly detailed. Most incidents between the FBI and AIM are related from several viewpoints. The author is careful to distinguish between those witnesses that are reliable versus those that may be lying. The overwhelming conclusion of this book is that the federal Indian department and the FBI conspired to destroy AIM and didn't care if they broke the law. They treated AIM as if it were the Mafia. Very unsettling!
Aug 13, 2017 rated it liked it
The author's message gets lost by going into too many extraneous events. It's confusing to try and keep the trail of names straight. It seems to me that a lot of people contributed to this gross miscarriage of justice. It's nauseating that up to this day, it still hasn't been corrected.
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A compelling and passionate plea on how Leonard Peltier was railroaded by the injustice system that always seems to be working to undermine Indian sovereignty. Sadly not only is Leonard still incarcerated, but this book continues to be as relevant and important to read as it was upon publication.
Marco Etheridge
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An important book with an important post-publication history. Copies of this book were suppressed by the FBI and others in US government. Read Banned Books!
Well researched, well written, and very informative. Excellent read.
Donna Daugherty
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An exceptional account of the plight of Leonard Peltier and A.I.M.
Oct 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Wow. I had no idea this happened. I'm so disgusted with all the lies, coverups, and hate. This is a very long book at 600+ pages but it was so worth it.
John Nielsen Boyack
Oct 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all who honor and defend those people who live in the wisdom of Indian way
Recommended to John Nielsen by: George Washington
Impressed by recent movement, I finally decided to finish this book. Rewarding, to say very little of its impact to me personally, and its impact on the American Public. The first several chapters are so painful to read if one holds even an ounce of empathy for the indigenous tribes of this continent, particularly under what I'll simply call the "jurisdiction", or care, of the ever-powerful United States Government. Read it, then

Just a few, short quotes to share, althou
James F
Oct 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
One of the most important events happening in the country today, though eclipsed in the media by the Clinton-Trump circus, is the resistance by Native Americans and their allies to the Dakota Access Pipeline. This book is important background to the Standing Rock struggle. Despite the mention of Crazy Horse in the title, this is not a book about the nineteenth century genocide against the Indians, which is covered in a first chapter only as background. What it is, is an account of the resurgence ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History
  • Where White Men Fear to Tread: The Autobiography of Russell Means
  • Prison Writings: My Life Is My Sun Dance
  • Native American Testimony: A Chronicle of Indian-White Relations from Prophecy to the Present
  • Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation
  • Indian Givers: How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World
  • Crazy Horse: The Strange Man of the Oglalas
  • Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto
  • The Killing of Crazy Horse
  • The Lance and the Shield: The Life and Times of Sitting Bull
  • 500 Nations: An Illustrated History of North American Indians
  • Black Elk: The Sacred Ways of a Lakota
  • A Sorrow in Our Heart: The Life of Tecumseh
  • The Earth Shall Weep: A History of Native America
  • Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions
  • Killing Custer: The Battle of Little Big Horn and the Fate of the Plains Indians
  • The Sacred Pipe: Black Elk's Account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux
  • The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions
Peter Matthiessen is the author of more than thirty books and the only writer to win the National Book Award for both non-fiction (The Snow Leopard, in two categories, in 1979 and 1980) and fiction (Shadow Country, in 2008). A co-founder of The Paris Review and a world-renowned naturalist, explorer and activist, he died in April 2014.
“The white man, as one Indian said, “was in the Black Hills just like maggots”;10 wasicu, or “the greedy one” (literally, “he-who-takes-the-fat”),11 was the term the Lakota used to describe the miners, and it later became their term for whites in general. “The love of possessions is a disease with them,” said Sitting Bull, who was never behindhand in his contempt.” 2 likes
“After four hundred years of betrayals and excuses, Indians recognize the new fashion in racism, which is to pretend that the real Indians are all gone.” 1 likes
More quotes…