Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

August 1994


Published in Great Plains Research 4:2 (August 1994). Copyright © 1994 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Used by permission.


Comparisons have often been made between the 1876 Sioux victory at the Little Big Horn and the 1879 Zulu victory at Isandhlwana, but James O. Gump's The Dust Rose Like Smoke goes beyond examination of these two battles. In fact, the discussion of the battles takes up only one chapter while the main body of the book examines events prior to and subsequent to these famous battles. This is a thorough survey that traces the Sioux and Zulu histories from the time before contact with the conquering powers and continues through the aftermath of the battles into the twentieth century.

Gump masterfully switches back and forth between the Zulu and the Sioux narratives. Each segment is long enough to maintain a connection with the complementary segment and together they create a continuity in the overall narrative. Instead of focusing on just the similarities, as is true of some comparisons, Gump emphasizes the differences in order to connect the striking similarities in the Zulu and Sioux histories. For example, The Zulu and the Sioux used divergent methods to achieve the same end. Both native groups dominated their territory at the time of Isandhlwana and the Little Big Horn. The Sioux rose to prominence through decentralization into numerous small bands under a variety of capable leaders, while the Zulu dominated through strong centralization under one leader with absolute authority.