Wild West

A TALE OF TWO EXPLORERS

In his 1849 frontier classic The Oregon Trail: Sketches of Prairie and Rocky-Mountain Life historian Francis Parkman (1823–93) penned some of the best-known accounts of a people today referred to broadly as the Sioux. His book was a best seller in the 1840s and remained required reading in 20th-century high schools.

Parkman described people who were hot-tempered and ate dogs after berating the curs for laziness, but who were also brave, generous and physically attractive, capable of devoted love as well as murderous hate and—this from a man who graduated from Harvard at age 20—actually somewhat intelligent. Poet and educator Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–82), among others, came to regard “Parkman’s Indians” as heroes, sometimes victims,

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