Essential Books on Crazy Horse
There are countless books on Crazy Horse, and it comes with good reason, in addition to being a Lakota war leader of the Oglala band during the 19th century, he took up arms against the United States federal government to fight against encroachment by American settlers and preserve the traditional way of life of the Lakota people.
“Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children,” he remarked.
In order to get to the bottom of what inspired one of America’s most consequential figures, we’ve compiled a list of the 5 best books on Crazy Horse.
The Journey of Crazy Horse by Joseph M. Marshall III
Most of the world remembers Crazy Horse as a peerless warrior who brought the U.S. Army to its knees at the Battle of Little Bighorn. But to his fellow Lakota Indians, he was a dutiful son and humble fighting man who – with valor, spirit, respect, and unparalleled leadership – fought for his people’s land, livelihood, and honor. In this fascinating biography, Joseph M. Marshall, himself a Lakota Indian, creates a vibrant portrait of the man, his times, and his legacy.
Thanks to firsthand research and his culture’s rich oral tradition (rarely shared outside the Native American community), Marshall reveals many aspects of Crazy Horse’s life, including details of the powerful vision that convinced him of his duty to help preserve the Lakota homeland – a vision that changed the course of Crazy Horse’s life and spurred him confidently into battle time and time again.
The Journey of Crazy Horse is the true story of how one man’s fight for his people’s survival roused his true genius as a strategist, commander, and trusted leader. And it is an unforgettable portrayal of a revered human being and a profound celebration of a culture, a community, and an enduring way of life.
Crazy Horse and Custer by Stephen E. Ambrose
The full story of what led Crazy Horse and Custer to that fateful day at the Little Bighorn, from bestselling historian Stephen E. Ambrose.
On the sparkling morning of June 25, 1876, 611 U.S. Army soldiers rode toward the banks of the Little Bighorn in the Montana Territory, where 3,000 Indians stood waiting for battle. The lives of two great warriors would soon be forever linked throughout history: Crazy Horse, leader of the Oglala Sioux, and General George Armstrong Custer of the Seventh Cavalry. Both were men of aggression and supreme courage. Both had become leaders in their societies at very early ages; both had been stripped of power, and in disgrace had worked to earn back the respect of their people. And to both of them, the unspoiled grandeur of the Great Plains of North America was an irresistible challenge. Their parallel lives would pave the way, in a manner unknown to either, for an inevitable clash between two nations fighting for possession of the open prairie.
Crazy Horse by William Matson
The Edward Clown family, nearest living relatives to the Lakota war leader, presents the family tales and memories told to them about their famous grandfather. In many ways, the oral history differs from what has become the standard and widely accepted biography of Crazy Horse. The family clarifies the inaccuracies and shares their story about the past, including what it means to them to be Lakota, the family genealogy, the life of Crazy Horse and his motivations, his death, and why they chose to keep quiet with their knowledge for so long before finally deciding to tell the truth as they know it.
The Killing of Crazy Horse by Thomas Powers
With the Great Sioux War as background and context, and drawing on many new materials, Thomas Powers establishes what really happened in the dramatic final months and days of Crazy Horse’s life.
He was the greatest Indian warrior of the nineteenth century, whose victory over General Custer at the battle of Little Bighorn in 1876 was the worst defeat ever inflicted on the frontier army. But after surrendering to federal troops, Crazy Horse was killed in custody for reasons which have been fiercely debated for more than a century. The Killing of Crazy Horse pieces together the story behind this official killing.
The Earth is All That Lasts by Mark Lee Gardner
Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull: Their names are iconic, their significance in American history undeniable. Together, these two Lakota chiefs, one a fabled warrior and the other a revered holy man, crushed George Armstrong Custer’s vaunted Seventh Cavalry. Yet their legendary victory at the Little Big Horn has overshadowed the rest of their rich and complex lives. Now, based on years of research and drawing on a wealth of previously ignored primary sources, award-winning author Mark Lee Gardner delivers the definitive chronicle, thrillingly told, of these extraordinary Indigenous leaders.
Both Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull were born and grew to manhood on the High Plains of the American West, in an era when vast herds of buffalo covered the earth, and when their nomadic people could move freely, following the buffalo and lording their fighting prowess over rival Indian nations. But as idyllic as this life seemed to be, neither man had known a time without whites.
Fur traders and government explorers were the first to penetrate Sioux lands, but they were soon followed by a flood of white intruders: Oregon-California Trail travelers, gold seekers, railroad men, settlers, town builders – and Bluecoats. The buffalo population plummeted, disease spread by the white man decimated villages, and conflicts with the interlopers increased.
On June 25, 1876, in the valley of the Little Big Horn, Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, and the warriors who were inspired to follow them, fought the last stand of the Sioux, a fierce and proud nation that had ruled the Great Plains for decades. It was their greatest victory, but it was also the beginning of the end for their treasured and sacred way of life. And in the years to come, both Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, defiant to the end, would meet violent – and eerily similar – fates.
Crazy Horse: The Strange Man of the Oglalas by Mari Sandoz
Crazy Horse, the military leader of the Oglala Sioux whose personal power and social nonconformity set him off as “strange,” fought in many famous battles, including the one at the Little Bighorn. He held out boldly against the government’s efforts to confine the Sioux on reservations. Finally, in the spring of 1877 he surrendered, one of the last important chiefs to do so, only to meet a violent death. Mari Sandoz, the noted author of Cheyenne Autumn and Old Jules, has captured the spirit of Crazy Horse with a strength and nobility befitting his heroism.
If you enjoyed this guide to essential books on Crazy Horse, check out our list of The 15 Best Books on John Muir!