Date of this Version
Great Plains Quarterly Volume 28, Number 3, Summer 2008, pp. 243-44.
In Oklahoma's Cheyenne community, Lawrence Hart has led a life framed by service and self-sacrifice. Widely regarded by his people as the embodiment of what a leader should be, Hart has spent decades tending to their cultural, spiritual, and political health. In Hinz-Penner's hands, Hart's biography is not simply his life story, but also a reflection of the shifting contours of contemporary Native life and a story that tells us much about what it means to be Cheyenne in the modern world. Writing with a keen appreciation for the larger issues at play in Hart's life, Hinz-Penner deftly broadens her account into something resembling a history of the Southern Cheyenne people for over the past hundred and fifty years.
She begins by placing Hart's own life into the broader context of the Cheyenne world since about the middle of the nineteenth century. Brief but informative sections on life on the prereservation Plains, the heartbreak of the Washita massacre, the reservation, the appearance of the Mennonites who were to have such a formative influence on the Cheyenne people, boarding schools, and the transition to a new way of life frame the first third of the book. Like most biographers, Hinz-Penner is in search of the larger world that has shaped her subject's life, and on most counts she succeeds well enough in making important connections. It is clear, for example, that kinship and a sharply honed sense of community have functioned largely uninterrupted in the Cheyenne community for the past century, not least because they have become anchors of stability in a sea of change. When Hinz-Penner engages Hart in discussions about his ancestors, Hart's deep appreciation for their importance in the life of his people and his commitment to maintaining their place in the Cheyennes' collective memory are abundantly clear.