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

Jordan Wright

The writing team of Bob Drury and Tom Clavin are best known to their readers as American military historians. Noted for turning out impeccably researched chronicles, their books range in coverage from World War II and Korea to the Vietnam War and usually grace The New York Times bestseller list. But for all their military acumen, the two had overlooked one of the biggest stories in American history: That of Chief Red Cloud, who led the Western Sioux Nation to victory against the U.S. The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, an American Legend (Simon & Schuster, November 2013) was born.

Before that, Drury and Clavin had been kicking around a few ideas for their next subject when they found themselves at the Marine Corps Base at Quantico as they accepted an award for Best Nonfiction from the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation.

“After the ceremony a Marine said to us, ‘You do know about the only Indian to win a war against the United States?’ ” Drury told Indian Country Today Media Network. “We said we were familiar with the Battle of Big Horn and other well-known battles. And then he said, ‘I didn’t say battle, I said war! An entire war.’ And I thought, Why didn’t we know about that?”

The Marine then told them about Red Cloud, chief of the Western Sioux Nation. The two were stunned to discover that the warrior in question was not Geronimo, Sitting Bull or Crazy Horse—proud fighters who most schoolchildren are taught about. They knew then that they had their next book. The Heart of Everything That Is tells Red Cloud’s story in his own words (he related his tale to a third party before he died) and lays out a riveting timeline of the period.

In researching his life, the authors uncovered a wealth of material from diaries and letters written by U. S. military officers and their wives and children, and wilderness trackers, plus a treasure trove of historical information gleaned from the letters and journals of the pioneers who crossed the Great Plains during the 1800s. Indian Country Today Media Network caught up with each author recently to gain insight into what compelled them to learn more about Red Cloud and write, “His overall leadership, his organizing genius, and his ability to persuade contentious tribes to band together…had enabled perhaps the most impressive campaign in the annals of Indian warfare.”

Your book is meticulously researched, full of the smallest details of life on the American Plains. What surprised you most in your studies of that period?

Clavin: The biggest surprise was how little we know of Red Cloud in our popular culture. We know a great deal about Geronimo, Cochise, Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. But Red Cloud wasn’t discussed at all in our history books. As we did more research we discovered stories of his exploits and of his importance in Sioux society and their culture and history.

It was shocking to us that he was little more than a footnote to what we know about the American West. It’s been mostly the white academics and white scholars who have written about the Indian. The Indian point of view has been mostly through the observation of others, as with Frances Parkman’s The Oregon Trail.


You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page



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.