Lakota Dreams Research

Besides the joy of immersing myself into a fantasy, the creation of Lakota Dreams was enjoyable because of the research involved.  I had the help of two professors of Native American Studies, one from the U. of South Dakota and the other from UT.  I also relied heavily on Internet web sites and compiled a notebook of a couple hundred pages of interesting facts. I learned about different tribes and their customs, buffalo hunts in the 1870s, wagon trains, firearms, the Seventh Cavalry and much more.  I used the names of many people who actually were involved in the Dakota Territory at the time, both white men and Native Americans.   One person suggested that in promoting my book, I should position myself as an authority on the subject of Native Americans or on the frontier in South Dakota.  Doing such might be useful in arranging speaking engagements.  But I’m no expert, and the novel is so full of fiction presented as fact, that if I tried to pretend I had such knowledge I’d be labeled a charlatan.   Sure, I know a whole more than I did before I wrote the book, but I’m just a story teller and not a historian.   The novel is fiction, a revision of history, and is certainly not intended to be a textbook.

One item I came across in my research is not in Lakota Dreams, but I’d like to share it.  It’s an account of  a gathering of some of the wives of the men of the Seventh Cavalry on the day of “Custer’s Last Stand.”  It was written weeks later by  Elizabeth Custer and I wish  I could write like her.

“On Sunday afternoon, the 25th of June, our little group of saddened women, borne down with one common weight of anxiety, sought solace in gathering together in our house.  We tried to find some slight surcease from trouble in the old hymns: some of them dated back to our childhood days, when our mothers rocked us to sleep to their soothing strains.  I remember the grief with which one fair young wife threw herself on the carpet and pillowed her head in the lap of a tender friend.  Another sat dejected at the piano, and struck soft chords that melted into the notes of the voices.  All were absorbed in the same thoughts, and their eyes were filled with faraway visions and longings.  Indescribable yearning for the absent, and untold terror for their safety, engrossed each heart.  The words of the hymn — E’en though a cross it be, neared my God to Thee — came forth with almost a sob from every throat.  At that very hour the fears that our tortured minds had portrayed in imagination were realities, and the souls of those we thought upon were ascending to meet their Maker.”

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