For most of us who learned about the Wild West from movies, novels and TV shows both old and new, we’ve seen the concept of Native Americans go from persecutors to persecuted. But neither reality is true says Peter Cozzens, author of 16 books on the American Civil War and the Indian Wars that followed. Indeed, many senior army officers were sympathetic to the Indians and advocates of their rights says Cozzens in his latest book, “The Earth is Weeping: The Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West” (Knopf 2016; $35).
“Another myth is that the government was exterminationist—cultural extermination, yes, but the government never contemplated the physical eradication of the Indians in the west,” says Cozzens who will be signing copies of his book on both Saturday and Monday in Chicago. “The War Department and the Bureau of Indian Affairs were constantly at odds over Indian policy with the military often more humane and restrained in their treatment.”
The third myth, according to Cozzens, is that the Indians stood united in opposition to white encroachment on their lands. Instead, in ways that helped doom their way of live, tribes continued to fight amongst each other at the same time they tried to stave off the encroachment of their lands.”
Cozzens, who retired from the American Foreign Service, is an avid researcher into the history of a time in our country so few of us really understand. It’s a very complicated period where many fascinating characters stand out including President Ulysses Grant, George Custer, Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, Geronimo, Red Cloud and General William Tecumseh Sherman. He sought out many Indian sources, weaving their information with American history in order to balance each one.
Spending so much time immersed in this time and place, Cozzens says that when he went to tribal lands in the West, places that haven’t changed much over the last century, he can feel what it must have been like for both the Indians and the military all those years ago.
What: Peter Cozzens book signings and talks at two Chicago venues.
When & Where: Saturday, October 29 at Noon. Abraham Lincoln Book Shop, 824 W. Superior St., Suite 100, Chicago, IL and Monday, October 31 at 6pm at the Chicago Public Library, Harold Washington Library Center, Cindy Pritzker Auditorium (lower level), 400 South State St., Chicago, IL