Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Great Plains Quarterly 30:1 (Winter 2010)


Copyright 2013 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


This two-volume set contains eighty-seven biographical sketches of notable Indian men and women drawn almost exclusively from the last half of the twentieth century. The author (Dean Chavers is director of Catching the Dream, an American Indian scholarship program) categorizes his subjects into eight leadership sections-Tribal, War, Sports, Literary, Education, Movement, Religious, and Other. Each division includes familiar names: Phillip Martin and Wilma Mankiller (tribal leaders), Ira Hayes (war), Jim Thorpe (sports), N. Scott Momaday {literary), Beatrice Medicine (education), Dennis Banks (movement), and Leon Shenandoah (religious), among others. Roughly half of the biographies focus on lesser-known leaders, many of whose lives touched that of the author, people whom he eulogizes in these pages.

Ostensibly written to provide "heroes" to a new generation of Indian young people, this book, nonetheless, often seems dated in its approach. Its opening chapter outlining "The Major Issues" faced by Indian communities quickly descends into a polemic castigating the "despotism" of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and its "goons," while failing to address issues of immediate concern to Indian young people (enrollment of children, for example). Chavers's review of nineteenth- and twentieth-century history contains unfortunate errors in content and chronology while regrettably oversimplifying the roles played by Indian peoples. Chavers admires John Collier's Indian Reorganization Act, brought low, he argues, by right-wing assimilationists, failing to acknowledge the opposition of many Indian leaders, particularly among the Great Plains nations.