AUTHOR’S NOTE  
Authors Note

Synopsis

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ISBN:
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The writing of this book began in 1981, although at the time I did not know it. In that year I bought a book “On The Border With Crook” written by General Crook’s aide-de-camp, Lieutenant John Bourke. As with many books that I acquire it was one to read, eventually. Over the years my stock of books increased, but I was gradually getting through them. They are mainly books on U.S. History and include a number on Native American history. In 2002 I decided to read “The Earth Shall Weep” by James Wilson. Mentioned in the book was the story of an Indian tribe, the Poncas, and a General Crook.

The name ‘Crook’ rang a bell. Was this the same Crook as in “On The Border With Crook”? I checked. It was. The story of the Poncas was mentioned in that book too. I read the chapter on the Poncas and this gave me an appetite to learn more. The more I read about the Poncas and how they were treated the more fascinating I found the story.

This book is based on that story, the removal of the Ponca Indians from their
reservation on the Niobrara River, in, what was then, Dakota Territory, to Indian Territory. It tells of the events leading up to the removal and how some of the tribe returned, under the leadership of one of their chiefs, Standing Bear -Machunahzha, how they were arrested by Crook and the help that he gave them. It continues with Standing Bear’s trial and its outcome. It also relates the help that many whites, in particular Henry Tibbles and Bright Eyes (Susette La Flesche) and the citizens and churchmen of Omaha and Boston, gave to the Poncas by putting pressure on the government to allow the Poncas to return to the north.

The story wrote itself, the events happened and I have merely used license to
create a dramatic tale of those events. Most of the characters in the book are
based on real people but some I have had to invent and some to give fictitious
names, not to protect them but merely because there is no record of their names, only of their part in the story. Also, not many Native Americans of the time could speak English but for ease of reading I have allowed certain characters that facility.

The story of Standing Bear and the Poncas is well known, more so, probably in
Nebraska, South Dakota and, certainly, in Oklahoma, than the rest of the United States. There are a number of excellent books on the legality, and the aftermath, of the trial of Standing Bear and the Ponca issue generally but none in the form of a story.

The Ponca tribe that remained in Indian Territory, Oklahoma, is a thriving
community and has maintained its tribal customs. They still live in the same area to where they were moved in 1879 and this is situated just south of Ponca City.

In 1962 the Northern Ponca lost their tribal status and their land confiscated. Their tribal status was restored in 1990 and the Episcopalian church ceded the land to the tribe but the federal government would not give the area tribal reservation status. I aim to give a percentage of the proceeds of this book to the Northern Ponca tribe to help develop the reservation and renew their customs so that the tribe can be recognised by the Government once again. I do very much apologise for the use of such terms as ‘Indian’ and ‘half-breed’. If this had been a modern day story I would have used the words of modern usage, ‘Native-American’ and ‘mixed-blood’, not out of political correctness but out of respect.

In the book I have taken the words used at the time, the mid-to-late 1800s. Similarly, if I malign unfairly the character of any person involved in the story I again apologise but I have had to interpret their involvement from my researches. As in all historical research there are conflicting theories both as to events, outcomes and people.

I hope that what I have done in the book is to show how the growth of America affected the indigenous peoples, Native Americans. The United States of America was not alone in this. Similar events occurred in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and South America, in fact anywhere that colonisation took place.

Thankfully, there were people that cared. As Susette “Bright Eyes” LaFlesche said, it was not hatred of the race that caused their suffering, but indifference.

John Brennan