Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Mari Sandoz On Western Wednesday...!

At a time when most writings about the old West treated the Indians as savages, Sandoz strongly defended them in her writings.

Western writer Mari Sandoz is born

Mari Sandoz, the author of several histories that demonstrated sympathy for Indians that was unusual for the time, is born in Sheridan County, Nebraska.

Sandoz had a difficult childhood on a Nebraska homestead. Her father, Jules, was a bitter, tyrannical man, who took out the frustrations of homesteading on his wife and children. Unusually bright and studious, Sandoz eventually escaped to the University of Nebraska, which she attended irregularly from 1922 to 1930. She never earned her degree–though the school awarded her an honorary Doctor of Letters in 1950–but found that she enjoyed the life of the scholar. After working as a schoolteacher for a time, she gradually devoted herself to historical research and freelance writing.

Sandoz authored a number of novels, but today she is remembered for her meticulously researched non-fiction histories. Her 1935 biography of her father, Old Jules, is a bittersweet and moving history of homesteading on the Great Plains. Even more valuable, though, were Sandoz’s histories of the Plains Indians. In 1949, she published Crazy Horse, a biography of the great Sioux warrior who participated in the 1876 defeat of George Custer at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. For decades after Little Big Horn, Crazy Horse was usually portrayed as a bloodthirsty savage who helped murder a great American hero. Sandoz’s biography revealed a noble and admirable man dedicated to his people and to resisting white theft of their traditional lands.

Sandoz’s 1953 book, Cheyenne Autumn, was equally unusual for its many appealing and sympathetic portraits of Indians. Painstakingly researched, the book remains valuable to this day for its thorough treatment of Indian history and folkways. Cheyenne Autumn is a moving condemnation of the brutal war waged by the U.S. to deprive the Cheyenne of their lands and traditional ways. The book was also the inspiration behind John Ford’s 1964 movie of the same name. Cheyenne Autumn was one of the first Westerns to abandon the old racist stereotypes of the Indian as a vicious savage and emphasize the tragedy of the Indian experience.

Strong willed, ambitious, and dedicated to providing an accurate history, Sandoz’s work marked the beginning of a movement that greatly revised how Americans viewed the history of western settlement. The Indians were not the villains in this great historical drama, Sandoz suggested, but the victims. Mari Sandoz died in 1966, just as many Americans were starting to embrace her more compassionate view of the Native American.

What I found most interesting about Mari was how dedicated she was about her research and strived to tell the factual truth at a time when it was not at all considered wise.

Coffee out on the patio this morning.


linda m said...

She is a woman to be commended for her work. Not many people are willing to do "real" research and then tell the truth. Native Americans were always portrayed as blood-thirsty savages when in reality they were just people trying to defend themselves against the white man who's e was stealing their land. If someone broke into your home wouldn't you try to defend it? Glad I got my grass cut yesterday as it is raining today.

Anonymous said...


Only the Sioux should've been allowed to 'steal' Cheyenne lands.

And only the Blackfoot tribe should've been allowed to 'steal' Crow lands.

Sarc off.

It's called 'conquest'...and it's the story of Human history...regardless of skin color.

Get some treatment for that 'raceaholicolism.'

BTW, why are you denigrating the role of the 'Buffalo Soldiers' in the 'theft' of Indian lands by not giving them an honorable mention?

HermitJim said...

Hey Linda...
At least she had the gumption to call it like she saw it. It took a lot of nerve back then.
Thanks for stopping by today!

Hey Anon...
I'm saddened by the fact that you feel it necessary to "shoot the messenger", instead of doing the research to read the article from But then, I would expect nothing else from someone that won't even use their own name in said attack.
Have a nice day!

JO said...

Great post about a great author. I am going to look into getting more of her books for my Kindle. You know I love history and of the Indian people who suffered greatly at the hands of the white people.

I love your response to Ann.

See you on the patio

Mamahen said...

Interesting post. I had never heard of her, but am looking forward to digging deeper into her story and her writings. See you on the patio:))

Dizzy-Dick said...

One Native American that I knew (he is no longer with us) was quite an artist. I have his first try at a glass etching on a broken piece of glass. Still have it on my fireplace mantel.

HermitJim said...

Hey Jo...
I figured that you would be interested in reading about her. I know how much you like history of the western times.
Thanks for dropping by today, dear!

Hey Mamahen...
i don't think most of us know her history, but maybe we can all learn more together.
Thanks for the visit today!

HermitJim said...

Hey Dizzy...
What a cool way to recall a talented friend.
Thanks for stopping by today!