Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 2008


Great Plains Quarterly Volume 28, Number 4, Fall 2008, pp. 326-27.


Copyright 2008 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Dubbed the "Fighting Cock of the Sioux" by the U.S. soldiers he confronted, the Hunkpapa warrior Gall has at last found his rightful place on the book shelves of Great Plains history. A major challenge for any biographer is the lack of primary source material about Gall's early life, a typical problem for anyone attempting a scholarly study about someone who flashes in and out of the historical record the way Gall does. Given the challenge he faced, Robert W. Larson has done a commendable job in compiling a plausible account of Gall's movements and actions before he took up residence on the Standing Rock reservation in May of 1881 upon his return from Canada where he'd fled with other Lakota diehards following the Battle of the Little Bighorn, though much of what is presented is speculative. Nonetheless, Larson has provided a richly detailed history of Native life in the Northern Plains as well as the sequence of events that left the Lakota bereft of their homeland and their traditional way of life at the close of the nineteenth century.

The biography is based on extensive research, as evidenced by the copious notes, and the author appears to have uncovered just about every possible tidbit of factual information about Gall, who was overshadowed by Sitting Bull, his mentor, and the other Lakota luminaries of the era. That Gall was a formidable foe to both tribal enemies and the white trespassers on Lakota hunting grounds is well documented. Physically impressive, bold in battle, and conspicuous in the red regalia he fancied, even Gall's adversaries gave him grudging admiration. Libby Custer, for one, upon seeing his photograph, exclaimed that she never "dreamed there could be ... so fine a specimen of warrior."