The Heart of Everything That Is: Chief Red Cloud's Untold Story, Revealed

Jordan Wright

What drew you to the story of Red Cloud?

Clavin: I was reading a description of the Fetterman massacre and Red Cloud and thought I was pretty well versed in eighteenth-century history. But ultimately when we decided to take on the story of Red Cloud, it became a four-year journey.

Drury: We saw his life was rich during the period of Manifest Destiny. It told of a way of life that had gone on for a millennium. We were accustomed to interviewing living people. But what we found was almost like Twitter, everyone kept a journal back then. Tom went to all the historical societies and university libraries out west and found so many letters. Some of the documents were so fragile that we had to handle them with gloves. Reading these journals was like interviewing living people. It was an amazing discovery. For example, no one knew how the Indians ‘treatied’ with each other.

Would the Plains Indians have survived without the trading posts and contact with whites?

Clavin: They probably would have survived much better! The trading posts were very destructive to them. They seduced the Indians from finding their own food and clothing, which they had always done. It also introduced alcohol to them and brought diseases they had no immunity from, like smallpox and cholera.

What was Red Cloud’s legacy to the Sioux?

Clavin: Once he retired as a military leader and after he could see the growing military power of the white people, he wanted to be sure that the Lakota Sioux and their children had education and medical care. He was an advocate in Washington for funds and other resources to come back to the reservation.

What does the book’s title mean?

Clavin: The Lakota Sioux name for the Black Hills is paha sapa. The area straddles the border between Wyoming and Southwestern South Dakota. They considered it their sacred territory—where they came from. The translation is “the heart of everything that is.”

Does Red Cloud have descendants?

Clavin: Tribal leaders have been descendants of Red Cloud, the leader of the Oglala Sioux, who was considered their leader until he died in 1909. Then it was Jack, his son, then James, his son, then Oliver Red Cloud, his son who died this past July at 93. His son, Lyman, was supposed to take over as leader, but died two weeks later. I have heard there is now a vacuum in terms of their spiritual figurehead.

Do they still live on the Pine Ridge reservation?

Clavin: Quite a few still do. Though some also attend school outside of the reservation and marry outside, there are still grandchildren and great-great- grandchildren living there.


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Splendor's picture
Submitted by Splendor on
He was an amazing man, but was not the only one who ever led a war against white man and won. We still tend to look at the history of this country as an east to west affair. Let us not forget Pope' (with an accent), a San Juan medicine man, who led the great resistance against the Spanish in 1680--known as the Pueblo Revolt--who not only won, but forcefully removed from all pueblo homelands a nearly 100-year Spanish settlement of thousands. Let us also not forget the amazing Tlingits, now of Alaska, who *never* submitted to Russian authority from the late 1700s through the time they sold Alaska to the United States over 160 years later.

boujoie's picture
Submitted by boujoie on
... Let us also not forget Fools Crow, nephew of Black Elk, who offered many prayer bundles to harmoniously unite the various native cultures, as well as the natives and whites. (see history of Bear Butte in South Dakota). Joie B. AnisinaabeOjibwe

rockymissouri's picture
Submitted by rockymissouri on
An honorable man.. He thought of his people.

sophielauren's picture
Submitted by sophielauren on
I grew up with stories of Tecumseh. He was practically a family member as far as I was concerned. I am really excited to read this book and teach my children about another amazing person!!

Sammy7's picture
Submitted by Sammy7 on
This is not a story for Drury and Clavin to write. It is for the Sioux to write. The yonega will provide a plot but the theme will be badly flawed and therefore disrespects the memory of Red Cloud. What strange sense of privilege do they have believing that they can possibly exist in one world view and write an important book concerning a different world view. They cannot ! It's more yonega hubris. I will not read their words.