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.










Author Timothy Egan in his book Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher  crafts a splendid and enjoyable biography of  world-renowned  American Indian anthropologist, photographer  and chronicler  Edward Curtis.



Egan captures the epic story of Curtis’s extraordinary creation of the 20-volume The North American Indian, an incomparable photographic and narrative now considered a work of art, documenting the complex and tragic story of the vanishing Native Americans. Egan writes in extensive detail of the thirty years during which Curtis became a slave to the completion of the work, capturing the personal sacrifices and near death adventures necessary for the narrative to be “preciously”  Edward Curtis. “This was a place like no other he had seen through three decades of portrait foraging, ”  writes Egan.  ” Think of it,”  Curtis wrote in his diary, ” At last, and for the first time in all my thirty years work with the natives, I have found a place where no  missionary has worked.”

Edward Curtis

Edward Curtis

At the Little Big Horn  battlefield and only after extensively interviewing Sioux who were present  that day, Edward Curtis uncovers a very different story of what actually happened at Custer’s Last Stand. ” Let them fight, there will be plenty of fighting left for us to do.”  George Armstrong Custer as told to Curtis by Crow Scout White Man Runs Him overlooking the  battlefield where General Marcus’s troops were slaughtered.

The reader will meet those who inspired Curtis to pursue his dream including Teddy Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot, J.P. Morgan, George Bird Grinnell , Chief Joseph and Geronimo. Egan’s portrait of Curtis is explicit in that it would be impossible to find another American who sacrificed  to the extent of Edward  Curtis to pursue the documentation and preservation of the vanishing way of life of the first Americans.

More than a biography, Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher shares with the reader Curtis’s depth of knowledge and understanding of the widely different cultures, rituals, and beliefs of the various American Indian tribes.  It is also a wonderfully crafted story of how the creative work of those who possess incomparable talent and vision are often  lost in their own time only to attain rightful acclaim by future generations.

Before The Storm--Apache 1906--Edward Curtis

Before The Storm–Apache 1906–Edward Curtis

I commend Short Nights Of The Shadow Catcher to all who have interest in poignant literature surrounding our first Americans.

Other books I have posted on gordonsgoodreads by Timothy Egan include The Worst Hard Time and The Big Burn.  Utilize the search tab found here.