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Killing Custer: The Battle of the Little Bighorn and the Fate of the Plains Indians

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  421 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
General George Custer's 1876 attack on a huge encampment of Plains Indians has gone down as the most disastrous defeat in American history. Much less understood is how disastrous it was for the "victors, " the Sioux and Cheyenne under the leadership of Sitting Bull: within fifteen years all Native Americans were confined to reservations, their culture in ruins. James Welch ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published October 1st 1994 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1994)
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Jim
I was looking for a perspective on the battle and was generally disappointed. The author came across as biased, perhaps understandably as he is at least marginally native American. Sentences were fragmented, text was frequently repetitive and focus of the book shifted maddeningly. On the plus side, Mr Welch provides information describing the people interviewed while doing his research and it is obvious that he has dedicated a lot of legwork to running down statistics and anecdotal information p ...more
Jill Hutchinson
Feb 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-history
The myth of the heroism and sacrifice of General George Custer was accepted in this country for years until scholars started looking at what really happened at the Little Big Horn. Custer, the ultimate egotist, was in the pursuit of glory for himself and the 7th Cavalry and often threw aside simple military basics. He did this at the Little Big Horn where he chose not to reconnoiter before ordering a charge against an "enemy" seven times greater in number than his own troops. We all know the out ...more
Tom Mayer
Sep 23, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who love american history and indian affairs
Full disclosure: I had a hand in reissuing this book for W. W. Norton in 2006. That said... This book is brilliant. It's a personal and historical account of the battle of little bighorn. Instead of tellig custer's story, however, Welch, who is one of the great Native American novelists of the 20th century, casts the plains indians as the protagonists of this epic battle. Their unprecendented cooperation with one another signalled a final effort to stem the tide of American imperialism and genoc ...more
Gaylord Dold
Second Look Books: Killing Custer by James Welch with Paul Stekler (Alfred A. Knopf, $25)

James Welch is the author of two splendidly bleak novels of American Indian experience. “The Death of Jim Loney” and “Winter in the Blood” together constitute a considerably eloquent body of work directed at reservation life and acculturation. In addition, Welch has authored a modern novel of life away from the reservation titled “The Indian Lawyer,” as well as a book of poems

With “Killing Custer,” he now en
...more
Michael
Dec 18, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: natives
Sort of an empty book. It's easy to read, but not much substance. A few months after I read it, I met one of the people mentioned in the book and talked to her about it.
Marc
Jan 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a great eye opener to America's greatest victory. I never knew how lame Custer was in his ability to lead the 7th Calvary Regiment. This book opens up so much of American History to me and has lit a fire of desire to learn about the other groups of Native Americans and their ultimate outcome. This book has a wonderful descriptive quality that puts the reader in the spot that Welch pours into your mind. I could feel the large tribe about me, smell camp fire, hear children and horses ...more
Wendy Mills
Jan 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a very fascinating book with lots of authentic information told by actual firsthand accounts of people who were actually at the battlefield or are descendants of those who were there. The book, as I'm sure the documentary that it is about, gives a true depiction of the days leading to the Battle of the Little Bighorn, what occurred on that battlefield, and events that happened later.
Judy
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A very compelling and sad read of the Indian side of the story. So much of what we were taught in school did not begin to penetrate the actual history of what happened to the Plains Indians, or for that matter all Indians. It's a very blight to our country that all of history was taught from the white man's view.
Kristen
Sep 18, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: frontier
A little light on the Killing Custer and heavier on the Fate of the Plains Indians, this book was nevertheless a decent account of the Battle of Little Bighorn within the context of the times with special emphasis on the Native American perspective.
Donna Davis
I didn't read the whole book, and I can't give it any stars (unless required, in which case I'll give it the 5 I suspect the rest will deserve, based on what I've read so far), because I just read chapter one, but if I don't list it as read,I can't write this and the book will get zapped off my shelf. This is probably a five star book; it's just that the first chapter was so searing, so painful, that I read it four or five pages at a time. I saw the title and thought, "All right! Let's go kill C ...more
Dawn
This was not a book of my choosing, I read it for my book club. I opened the cover with an open mind. I very much enjoy nonfiction and am interested in the Plains Indians and really had no clear idea of what exactly Custer’s Last Stand was all about. The beginning of the book was terrible. I’ve read real historians (Stephen Ambrose) and this was not right. It was very disjointed and skipped around way too much. Not only was he skipping around in time around the battle but going as far into the 2 ...more
Connie
Nov 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Welch is one of my favorite authors (his "Fools Crow" is probably my favorite book of all time), so I might carry a slight bias in the bookbag here. Also, this is the second in my recent run of late 1800s Plains Indians books, and I have a few more to go, so opinions may shift in the coming months. So...this book is more than just Little Bighorn and Custer. It tells the story of the making of the documentary that accompanied this book, and it also stretches back to Sand Creek and Washita and for ...more
Leslie
Sep 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Written by the scriptwriter for the American Experience segment on Custer's Last Stand, this is an excellent analysis-- far better than "Son of the Morning Star," which was previously considered one of the definitive histories and focused largely on the battle itself.

This book takes a bird's eye view which includes extensive information about both the political forces and economic trends of the times which affected US Indian policy, often on a case-by-case basis. It also examines the Indian poi
...more
Elliotte Bagg
While the insights into the conflict between Indians and whites in this book are interesting, especially from the Indian perspective, this book feels incredibly scatterbrained. I appreciate the asides the author makes about his experiences with his heritage a hundred years later, but the pacing of this non-fiction book is all over the place, one second it's about the plains Indians, another paragraph is modern day Indian protests, another is a small chunk of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, an ...more
Mark Valentine
Mar 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a framing device, this historical account of Custer's defeat to the tribes at Greasy Grass reports on the making of the film, "The Last Stand," but it is so much more. Welch and Stekler relate the events leading to the battle, the event, Crazy Horses' murder and Sitting Bull's murder with great clarity and precision. They report it from not only the conventional written accounts and sources but also from the families (from the children of the battle's participants) who have anecdotal informat ...more
Joe
Dec 20, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although it is probably impossible to get an unbiased look at this particular battle and event in American history, I felt that the author did a good job of portraying both sides of the story in a fair way. I wish this was closer to what was taught in schools and hopefully it will help to shed some truth on what actually happened. The parts of the book that discussed the making of the movie and research for the book were somewhat tedious, but the actual historical accounts were well written and ...more
Raymond
James Welch - novelist - and Paul Stekler produced the script for the, "American Experience," documentary, "Last Stand at the Little Bighorn." The book, "Killing Custer," is a worthy effort, told largely from the perspective of the Plains Indians who fought the famous battle. Of course the effort cannot be wholly successful. Eric Remarque could re-create the World War I experiences in the German trenches ("All Quiet on the Western Front") because he was there. By 1994, there was one who could re ...more
Joe Stack
Jan 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Easy to read, well-written account of the history of the battle at Little Big Horn and its aftermath told from the Native American perspective. Sympathetic to the Native Americans, this a balanced account. While Custer is typically the interesting character in histories of this battle, it is Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and some of the other Indians who steal the show. Their brief bios present a strong narrative of the conflict within the tribes and their plight against white encroachment. A good ...more
Janis
Oct 04, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs
I did have some mixed feelings about this book. It seemed to wander a bit. Eventually I realized it wasn't just what the title indicated, but a more overall view that included events leading up to and the aftermath of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Once my expectations were managed, the reading was more enjoyable. It was written as part of the experiences Welch had writing a documentary on the subject; additional chapters on modern times and the film-making experience held my interest.
Gretchen
I read this book for my book club, and I actually wasn't all that thrilled about the prospect, because I don't really like reading nonfiction, and I wasn't that interested in the subject matter. But it was actually really interesting. I learned a lot that I didn't know before about the plight of the Plains Indians and their way of life before the white man came along. It opened up my eyes to a lot of things. I'm glad I read it.
Doug
Jul 28, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Learned a lot from this book. Had not read anything about Custer or the plains indians before. This book is written primarily from the Native American viewpoint, which I found very interesting. At times thou I thought it read like a history book and then it would jump to how they were filming a documentary on the battle. Overall I liked the book.
Paul
May 30, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed the analysis of the events that led up to, and followed, the Little Big Horn. I didn't care as much for the writing style of the author....especially his passages concerning his quest for the information.
Tom Eldridge
May 11, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting true history of George Armstrong Custer and the Battle of Little Big Horn. Custer was more egotist than hero and his mis-management of his troops led to their downfal. Seperates a lot of the facts from the legend. Very interesting and engrossing.
Butano18
Mar 10, 2012 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very interesting book. It not only tells the story of Custer's Last Stand, it does so from the Indians' point of view, and it traces the treatment of Native Americans pretty much from Columbus' landing to the present time. If you're an American history buff, this book rates a read.
jeanette
Apr 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: must-reads
Killing Custer gives an emic (Native American) view of the Battle of the Greasy Grass (Battle of Little Big Horn). Welch is very even handed in his accounting and does an excellent job of repositioning the history of Custer and "his last stand"
William
The writing is a bit scattered but I really enjoyed the middle part of the book describing the actual battle from the viewpoint of many participants. Custer was foolish and his luck ran out.
Mairead
Good review of the treatment of native americans--it's not about who's better, but how cultures react when they come in contact with one another and one wants what the other one has.
Elizabeth
relates to work...really interesting, but we'll see if I actually finish it...
Tony
Aug 03, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not as good as "To Hell With Honor", but a very good book about Custer and the Little Big Horn
Meredith
Mar 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you love American history of the West, this is a great book. I didn't realize that Custer was such a careless man.
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James Welch was a Blackfeet author who wrote several novels considered part of the Native American Renaissance literary movement. He is best known for his novel "Fools Crow" (1986).

His works explore the experiences of Native Americans in the 19th and 20th centuries. He worked with Paul Stekler on the documentary "Last Stand at Little Bighorn" which aired on PBS.
More about James Welch...

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