When Charles Ohiyesa Eastman, a degreed Dakota physician with an East coast university education, met Elaine Goodale, a teacher and supervisor of education among the Sioux, they were about to witness one of the worst massacres in U.S. history: The Wounded Knee Massacre of unarmed Indians participating in a religious ritual. Their bond began there as they witnessed the horror. It carried them across the U.S. advocating for Native Americans and whistleblowing the corruption and racism of the nation’s Indian policy. They wrote 22 books while organizing a national organization of and for Indians that paralleled the NAACP. They lobbied Congress, made speeches, wrote articles and protested the steady erosion of Native rights and resources. Their books, excerpted here, make the history of this very bleak time for Americans of color come alive.
This book connects the experiences and responses of Indigenous Americans with those of African Americans and white progressives during the period from the Civil War to World War II. Social and political history combine here to paint vivid pictures of this time. Tensions between the Eastmans mirror the dilemmas of gender, cultural pluralism and ethnic differences that Charles and Elaine faced as they worked to make their homeland care about Indian impoverishment. Their story is a national story. It is also intensely personal. It reveals the price American reformers paid for their activism and the cost exacted for American citizenship. Effectively written, this book will keep you reading and thinking about the connections between their time and ours.