This well researched work of non-fiction is an important read for those with a keen interest in the great Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce and the attendant story line of Native Americans and the Nez Perce War. Equally important, Daniel Sharfstein’s THUNDER in the MOUNTAINS places the story of the Nez Perce in an even broader historical context.
THUNDER in the MOUNTAINS carefully constructs the protracted efforts by Chief Joseph and U.S. Army General Oliver Otis Howard to avoid what became the last of the great Indian Wars of the 1870s. Following his participation in the Civil War, General Howard was named head of the Freedman’s Bureau and placed in charge of bringing the 4-million newly emancipated slaves under the protection of U.S. Citizenship. Howard, possessed of a substantial ego , was shattered when much of the blame of the failure of the Freedman’s Bureau was placed at his feet.
Upon his election, President Grant sent Howard to the Northwest to negotiate with Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce bands that as the last hold outs had refused to give up their native lands and move to government Indian Reservations.
The author brilliantly defines Chief Joseph’s character and intellect and the melancholy of chief’s arguments having no bearing on the outcome for the Nez Perce. “All I ask is that my people be treated as U.S. citizens and have the same rights under the laws to pursue our rightful ownership of our home lands.”
As is my custom in this space I will leave the details of the story and the saga’s tragic ending to the telling of the author and the absorption of his readers. ” I will fight no more forever.”
As you read THUNDER in the MOUNTAINS keep in mind the parallels between emancipation and the disposition of the Native Americans and how badly the U.S. Government failed on both counts. I applaud Sharfstein for the literary manner in which he has merged these monumental epics in American History.
Also by Daniel Sharfstein: The Invisible Line, A Secret History of Race in America
I also highly recommend THE NEZ PERCE INDIANS AND THE OPENING OF THE NORTHWEST by Alvin M. Josephy, Jr.