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In Search of Spirit is an important Native American memoir that encompasses some of the most famous events and frontier characters in Western American history, including eyewitness reports of the Ghost Dance, the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890 and the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show. The author, V. Edward Bates, an enrolled member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe, tells of his great grandfather, Sitting Bull's cousin, Ojan, a naïve boy who became a protégé of the rich Philadelphia financier and merchant, John Welsh. When Ojan lived with the Welsh family, his powerful mentor taught him to use his English proficiency to make money through shrewd business dealings with the ultimate goal the acquisition of land. The boy returned to his people a changed young man at odds with his father, the beloved headman White Medicine Cow That Stands, a respected and eloquent orator who spoke before Congress about the injustices perpetrated against his tribe. Ojan, now called William T. Selwyn, exaggerated warnings to government authorities about the impending uprising of the Ghost Dancers. His repeated reports of violence helped to ignite the military revenge for Custer's defeat at the Bighorn 14 years earlier. The result was the senseless slaughter of hundreds of innocent men, women and children by the U.S. 7th Cavalry on December 29, 1890. Selwyn returned to his reservation to encourage and help politicians take control of Yankton lands and the Sacred Pipestone Quarry, which his tribe had protected for centuries. After each successful sell-out, the traitor was rewarded with land and jobs, but his betrayals finally brought him to a gruesome end. The author's family suffered to be civilized. Their recovery from the ordeal took four generations until the author's mother made the decision to take her children away from their homeland. In Search of Spirit is a well-researched and courageous saga that should be required reading in university studies. It is my hope this book will encourage Indians to write their family stories, not to white-wash, but to have the guts to tell the damage done when people like Richard H. Pratt taught educators to . . . kill the Indian and save the man. -Renée Sansom Flood
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V. Edward Bates is an enrolled member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe. The book is based in large part on an oral history of his family and the Oglala/Yankton people. Ed is a retired social worker educator and lives with his wife in Spokane, Washington.
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